US set funding deal for next year to avert partial government shutdown

WASHINGTON: Senior negotiators in the US Congress on Thursday reached a tentative deal with the White House on a series of bills to fund federal agencies through Sept 30, 2020, which would avert partial government shutdowns next week.

A person familiar with the negotiations said that votes by the full House of Representatives on a series of bills costing around US$1.3 trillion could come as soon as Tuesday as Congress races to complete this work before a Dec 20 deadline when existing money expires.

While some technical issues still have to be resolved, the source said that major disagreements between Democrats and Republicans have been worked out.

That includes, according to the source, how to address Republican President Donald Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to fund further construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.

The source did not provide details on whether such funding would be included in this package.

If the Democratic-controlled House approves the legislation next week, the Republican-led Senate would also have to sign off before it can be sent to Trump for his signing into law.

Federal agencies have been operating on temporary funding since Oct 1, the beginning of the current fiscal year, because Congress and the White House had been unable to agree on full-year appropriations for agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, which administers many of the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies.

A year ago, a record-long 35-day government shutdown of many federal operations occurred when Congress failed to approve spending bills and stopgap funding expired.

Some of the same thorny issues, including billing US taxpayers for a wall that Trump vowed in 2016 would be paid for by Mexico, were at the heart of the just-completed negotiations.

Democrats and some Republicans complain that a wall is an inefficient solution to stemming the flow of immigrants and illegal drugs from Central America and other foreign countries coming over the southwestern border with Mexico.

There are estimates that, if fully built, it could cost over US$24 billion over several years.

Over the past several months, Trump has used executive powers to re-channel money from other programs to build some portions of a wall since Congress has balked at its funding – a move that has angered many members of Congress.

There also were tough battles over funding for the detention of immigrants as they await court hearings on whether they will be deported.

Details also were not immediately available on how this matter was resolved.