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February 20, 2018

US Congress urged to extend government spending to avert shutdown

US Congress urged to extend government spending to avert shutdown
'House speaker Paul Ryan, arriving Thursday for a weekly news conference in the US Capitol Visitor Center, urged passage of a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown' - By: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP CHIP SOMODEVILLA

US lawmakers should pass a temporary spending bill in the coming week in order to avoid a crippling government shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday.

With a December 8 deadline looming to avoid closures affecting much of the federal government, Congress faces a narrowing window to either fund operations through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, or agree to a so-called continuing resolution (CR) to keep government open for a period under the previous year's spending levels.

"We will pass a short-term CR that is necessary to keep the government open to keep talks going," Ryan told reporters, speaking for the House. "Hopefully, people will decide to participate in the talks."

Any short-term spending extension would also have to pass the Senate and be signed by the president.

The US government cannot legally operate unless Congress allocates funding for federal operations. Such spending is currently assured only until December 8.

Ryan did not say how long the temporary funding might last, but such measures typically extend spending for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

- A looming showdown -

In the run-up to such deadlines, lawmakers often seek extra time to allow for negotiations over a comprehensive and complex funding package, in this case until the end of the 2018 fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The talks are shaping up to be a showdown between Republicans, under President Donald Trump, and opposition Democrats, who could stall the bill's progress in the Senate.

Pressure swelled on both parties earlier this week, when Trump tweeted that he did not envision a deal being made with Democrats, whom he described as "weak" on immigration, crime and taxes.

Democratic leaders promptly backed out of a long-scheduled White House meeting with the president, saying they would focus instead on negotiating with their Republican counterparts in Congress.

One key point of dispute is whether to include measures addressing the thousands of immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally as children, and were shielded from deportation under the Obama administration's DACA program.

Democrats want legislation that will protect the so-called Dreamers.

But Trump moved to repeal the DACA program, exposing hundreds of thousands of immigrants to possible deportation, while suspending implementation of the repeal until March to provide time for a legislative fix.

"Do we have to have a DACA solution? Yes, we do," Ryan said.

He added that while other fiscal pressures should be addressed first, the two parties ought to begin working on a solution now in order to complete it before March.

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