Congress okays two week punt on border wall, shutdown fight

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With most work of the government interrupted this week by the ceremonies honoring the late President George H.W. Bush, the House and Senate on Thursday approved a two-week stop gap funding plan for part of the federal government, re-setting a partisal government shutdown deadline for December 21, as the two sides seem no closer to a deal on money that the President wants for his wall along the Mexican border.

“The idea that the American taxpayer now has to foot the bill doesn’t make sense,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who mocked the President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chant that Mexico would pay for the wall, not the United States.

House-Senate negotiators have already agreed to fund $1.6 billion again in 2019 for border security – but President Trump wants $5 billion – and for now, that’s a non-starter with top Democrats.

In a news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also rejected the idea of a deal where the President would get his wall money, in exchange for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” gaining legal status in the U.S, as Pelosi labeled the border wall, ‘immoral, ineffective, and expensive.’

If no deal is reached by December 21, then there would be a partial government shutdown, as the Congress has already approved the 2019 funding plans for a big chunk of the government – the military, Congress, most health, education and labor programs, the VA, and military construction.

But there is much more that lawmakers would like to finish before getting out of town for the Christmas break, and the end of the 115th Congress – some of those items include:

+ A revised major farm policy bill
+ Sexual harassment reforms in the Congress
+ A criminal justice reform bill backed by the President
+ A package of special tax breaks known as the ‘tax extenders’

But there is also the chance that much of that could get bogged down in the Legislative Mud at the end of this Congressional session, as Democrats get ready to take over the House in January.

One item added on to the two-week budget was a two-week extension for the federal flood insurance program; lawmakers had hoped to gain agreement on broader reforms, but that seems unlikely to happen – again – in 2018.