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August 17, 2018

Congress eyes temporary budget as US shutdown deadline looms

Congress eyes temporary budget as US shutdown deadline looms
'US President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have been negotiating with Democrats for weeks over an elusive deal on 2018 federal spending ' - By: AFP/File SAUL LOEB

US lawmakers will resort to passing a short-term federal spending deal next week to avoid an embarrassing government shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday, as prospects for a long-term 2018 agreement dimmed.

A move to extend temporary funding beyond the January 19 deadline would be the fourth such extension, known as a "continuing resolution," since September, and would signal that the country's two warring political parties might be too far apart on budget issues and immigration to strike a bipartisan agreement this year.

"We will have to do something short term," Ryan told a political forum in his native Wisconsin, when asked whether Congress would be able to reach a deal before government lights go out next Friday at midnight.

But the top Republican in Congress stressed he did not believe lawmakers will allow federal operations to stop.

"No I don't think there will be" a shutdown, Ryan said.

Republicans have accused Democrats of slow-walking the budget process in a bid to strengthen their hand in negotiations on the sensitive issue of immigration.

Democratic leaders say they want an immigration deal to be attached to a broader budget package.

Lawmakers and the White House have sought to craft a compromise that tightens border security including funding a wall on the border with Mexico and limits other entry programs like the green card visa lottery in exchange for shielding young immigrants from deportation.

Nearly 800,000 people who came to the US illegally as children were protected under the Obama administration, but Trump will scrap the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5 unless Congress legislates a fix.

But after a tense White House meeting with lawmakers during which Trump was accused of using a racist slur, the negotiations took a sharp downward turn.

"Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards," Trump tweeted.

"The Dems will threaten 'shutdown,' but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most."

Congressional negotiators have spent weeks battling over top lines for military and domestic spending, with Republicans and Democrats alike warning that failure to strike a deal would harm US military readiness and capability.

Lawmakers are also looking to finalize an $80 billion disaster relief bill, the largest of its kind, and re-authorize a child health insurance program.

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