If you are the kind of person who procrastinates in taking care of holiday business until time and retail shelves are about to run out, you’re not alone. Congress is doing the same thing with two pieces of must-pass legislation.
It’s been clear for a good while that when the two-week stopgap spending bill Congress just passed runs out on December 22, some real decisions may have to be made. Yeah, it’s possible GOP leaders can convince their troops and the opposition to just kick the can down the road a bit further with another stopgap spending bill that expires in January. But previous indications have been that both Democrats and House conservatives will demand at least some agreement on spending targets before then. And there’s a strong possibility other issues could produce a real clash and even a pre-Christmas government shutdown.
Democrats are threatening to go to the mattresses over Dreamers, as The Hill reports:
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Pelosi said Democrats will insist on safeguards for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before the holiday recess, suggesting Republicans will be on their own to prevent a government shutdown if that language is excluded.
“We will not leave here without a DACA fix,” Pelosi said.
And conservatives are being equally obdurate over defense spending, as the Chicago Tribune reports:
[Conservatives] want to provoke a confrontation with Democrats and break a cycle of bipartisan deals that has led both military and nondefense discretionary spending to rise in lockstep. They are also wary of a year-end spending bill becoming a legislative “Christmas tree” that could include relief for dreamers and other Democratic priorities.
There’s not a lot of time to work this all out. And if that wasn’t enough to generate some holiday jitters, we now learn from Politico that the House-Senate conference over the GOP’s tax bill won’t produce a product for a final vote until the week after next — the week before Christmas.
The House will not vote next week on a final agreement to rewrite the tax code, though House and Senate negotiators are expected to work through the weekend….
Dec. 22 has been widely seen as the unofficial deadline in recent days, as that’s the date federal funding will run out under a stopgap spending measure and lawmakers are expected to turn their attention to spending again.
Trouble is, of course, that if there are conflicts over the spending bill, which seems extremely likely, Congress won’t be able to wait until December 22 to “turn their attention to spending again.” And if the tax bill isn’t tied up all nice and tidy by the beginning of that week, with no chance whatsoever of problems in either chamber, then the odds of the two big issues bleeding over into each other will skyrocket, as dissenters on one bill make demands about the other. Even if GOP leaders manage to keep the two measures separate, that’s a lot of complicated work to get through, especially when members of Congress are facing their own holiday distractions.
If Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or Donald Trump know any shortcuts to avoid the pre-Christmas train wreck, they’d better pursue them right now. Otherwise, they could find themselves in a Christmas government shutdown that could enrage the nation, along with base-infuriating screwups over the tax bill that is supposedly going to be the big present under the tree for the GOP and its hungry donors.