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House Democrats Unveil Bill to Avert Shutdown This Week

Erik Wasson

(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats on Monday released a four-week spending bill negotiated with Republicans to avert a federal government shutdown on Friday.

The measure, which would extend funding through Dec. 20, would also keep the Export-Import Bank open through that date. It would allow the Census Bureau to spend money at a higher rate to prepare for the 2020 head count, prevent an automatic cut to highway funding next year, and provide the military with a 3.1% pay increase.

The House plans to vote on the bill Tuesday, second-ranking Democrat Steny Hoyer said on Twitter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican-controlled chamber will also vote on the measure this week. Current funding runs out at the end of the day Thursday.

The White House has indicated that President Donald Trump is ready to sign the measure, McConnell said.

Elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act set to expire on Dec. 15 would be extended through March 15, 2020. The provisions allow expanded authority to wiretap terrorism suspects and to examine business records related to terrorism investigations.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who opposes the FISA extension and single-handedly triggered a brief shutdown in the past, said Monday he doesn’t expect to block passage of the measure this week, although he hasn’t made a final decision.

The bill would extend funding for community health centers through Dec. 20 and increase funding to combat Ebola in Africa. It would also provide a payment to the widow of the late Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, a standard practice.

The short-term spending measure is needed because Congress has failed to agree on any of the 12 annual spending bills needed to fund government agencies for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

$1.3 Trillion Cap

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed in July on a $1.3 trillion budget cap for fiscal 2020, raising hopes that the 12 spending bills could be enacted quickly.

Instead, disputes over Trump’s border wall have hampered the appropriations committees’ ability to set top spending levels for each of the 12 bills under the overall cap. Trump’s budget asked for $9 billion in new wall funding and Senate Republicans have proposed providing $5 billion, while House Democrats have vowed to provide no new money.

The two parties are also arguing over whether to replenish military accounts that Trump raided earlier this year to fund the wall. Trump’s move has been challenged in court and Democrats argue it was unconstitutional.

Pelosi and Mnuchin met last week with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, to try to break the impasse. Afterward, Lowey said the group is aiming for a deal on top spending levels by the end of this week, but talks have made little headway.

The White House has said the president would be willing to sign a stopgap spending bill as long as it doesn’t hinder Trump’s executive authorities, including the ability to spend the transferred wall money.

(Updates with Paul comment in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Anna Edgerton, Laurie Asséo

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