Politics

Senate Considers Staying in Session After Dec. 18

Discussions ongoing as chamber plate remains full

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks back to his office from the Senate floor in the Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate is making preliminary plans to cancel a scheduled state work period the week of Dec. 18 in order to remain in session and wrap up a litany of outstanding items, according to three GOP senators.

The discussions on the schedule, which the lawmakers say are not yet final, is a testament to how much the chamber still has to accomplish before the year’s end and the looming political battle over several of the items.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Senate Republicans are hoping to pass their overhaul of the U.S. tax code the week after Thanksgiving break. Attention is then expected to immediately turn to funding the government beyond Dec. 8.

Two GOP senators, speaking on background to discuss internal conversations, said while discussions remain ongoing on whether to pursue an omnibus spending bill or a temporary continuing resolution into next year, the talks have not been fruitful and foreshadow an upcoming difficult few weeks.

Another Republican senator said focus in the chamber is entirely on the tax plan and downplayed the significance of any current talks.

“Congress and the administration need to reach a budget agreement sooner rather than later,” a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee said. “The Committee understands the growing urgency of the situation, but is confident and eager to produce legislation that can be enacted in December.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday negotiations are “going quite well.”

“The most immediate need is dealing with funding the government and our Republican colleagues ought to focus on that, instead of kicking the can down the road,” he told reporters.

With the addition of the repeal of the individual mandate in the latest Republican tax proposal, Democrats are preparing to mount substantial resistance to a bill they say now represents a battle over the future of the U.S. health care system.

Several remaining items could be wrapped into the legislation to fund the government in fiscal year 2018, including a reauthorization of a popular children’s health insurance program.

Democrats are also expected to try to add in a measure to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump ended earlier this year on a six-month delay.

“We’re going to make a stand. This has to be done before the end of the year,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday of the DACA program. “I’m not going home for the holidays until we get this done.”

Some Republicans — including Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan — are opposed to including legislation to address the program that covers immigrants who come to the country as children in the spending bill.

The chamber could also continue to process nominations during the schedule extension. Republicans hope the threat of staying in Washington, D.C. longer could help pressure Democrats into supporting a large package of nominations, similar to one passed in August.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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