WASHINGTON – The threat of a U.S. government shutdown this weekend appeared to recede on Tuesday after President Donald Trump backed away from a demand that Congress include funding for his planned border wall with Mexico in a spending bill.
Even if the fight over wall funding is over, Republicans and Democrats still have difficult issues to resolve as they face a Friday night deadline when existing money expires for many federal agencies.
There was growing sentiment among lawmakers that they would need to pass a short-term extension of current spending, possibly of one week’s duration, in order to finish negotiating longer-term legislation for funding the government through the end of September.
But on Tuesday night, some leading Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate expressed optimism that Congress could pass the longer-term bill and avoid having to rely on another temporary extension of last year’s funding levels.
During a conference call Tuesday morning, Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning) also addressed the issue, saying he is in favor of keeping government running, and that as co-chair of the house bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, he and other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting a proposed funding plan that would avoid a shutdown by holding off on the more contentious issues.
“We have taken a position where we would support a clean funding bill for the rest of 2017, essentially meaning we would keep the ideological debates out of this process,” Reed said. “I think the more that we can have a clean debate on just funding levels, I think we could come to a rapid agreement to keep the government running, and then take care of issues – things that I support like the border wall and border security – we can deal with those outside of this shutdown deadline that is coming upon us.”
President Trump removed a crucial sticking point when he said on Monday he may wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1 to seek wall funding.
While Reed is in favor of keeping the government running, that hasn’t always been the case. In the fall of 2013, Reed voted four times in favor of resolutions that place the government on the path to an eventual shutdown. On Tuesday he acknowledged his past voting record.
“There have been times when you have to vote the interest of the district and the nation and we’ve done that when it comes to funding bills,” Reed said. “But as we go forward, I do believe we try to be part of the efforts to avoid that type of conflict. I think in this present situation we have learned a lot from prior votes and prior situations, and what we’re trying to do is be a positive voice for governing for the American people.”
The president’s fellow Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but the current spending bill will need 60 votes to clear the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold only 52 seats. Democratic leaders had said they would not support a bill that included funds for the wall.