House Republicans pushed through a bill Thursday to keep the federal government open for another four weeks after GOP leaders promised to boost defense spending in a separate bill next month.
By a vote of 230-to-197, the House sent the bill to Senate where Democrats have vowed to block it because it does not offer legal guarantees for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.
Because the bill needs 60 votes to win Senate approval, the federal government could partially close at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013 if the bill collapses in the Senate. But Thursday’s House vote intensifies pressure on the Senate to keep the government open.
Senate Democrats such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are likely to support the temporary spending measure because it extends for six years a program he strongly supports that provides health coverage to 220,000 low-income children in Ohio.
The program, the 1997 Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, is popular with both political parties while governors such as Republican John Kasich and Ohio hospitals have beseeched Congress to extend the program. It expired at the end of last September, forcing Congress to extend it with temporary spending measures.
The major obstacle for House Republicans was their insistence that billions of additional federal dollars be provided for national defense. Under a 2013 law aimed at restraining spending, the government could not spend more $549 billion for defense in the 2018 federal spending year.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was able to persuade defense hawks such as Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, to support the bill, even though it does not include additional military spending. But Turner said Ryan pledged to add to military spending when the full budget is approved this year.
Turner said “we’re in the sad position of having to vote for another” temporary bill “which shortchanges our men and women in uniform.” However, he said Ryan has “a strong commitment for a two–year funding package for our military that is in the best interest of our military.”
Area Republicans Turner, Jim Jordan of Urbana and Warren Davidson of Troy all voted for the bill. Democrat Joyce Beatty of Columbus joined other Democrats in opposing the measure.
Until late Thursday, Ryan’s pledge was not enough to win the backing of the House’s most conservative Republicans, such as Jordan.
But President Donald Trump and Ryan finally convinced opposition Republicans to vote for the bill by promising to boost Defense spending by $80 billion and permit a floor vote on a conservative-backed immigration bill.
If the government shuts down Friday night, the mail would get delivered, the post offices will remain open, the Army, Navy and Air Force operate with critical personnel reporting as usual, and Americans receive their Social Security checks. Medicare and Medicaid departments also continue to function.
Ohio in 2016 had 77,400 federal employees, of which 5,250 were on active duty with the Air Force. Air Force civilian employment was 13,838, almost all at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton
In the past, civilian workers were furloughed, although they were paid when the government re-opened. In the 2013 shutdown, 50 workers at the Defense Supply Center were furloughed.
Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees — the vast majority of whom are civilians — and touts a regional economic impact greater than $4 billion.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions, would close until a funding deal is reached, a spokesman has said.
The vote highlighted what has become a recurring drama in Washington, confirming once again voters’ fears that the federal government seems to lurch from one budgetary crisis to the next.
Both parties have used the threat of government closures as leverage to win passage of measures that have little or no impact on the budget. Both sides essentially are waiting for the other side to fold, which tends to increase the power of the far right and far left to prevent government from remaining open.
But with the stock market roaring and the economy expanding, there is intense pressure from Wall Street and U.S. companies on Washington to settle their differences without the chaos created by a partial government shutdown.
After a confusing presidential tweet created today doubts about whether the White House backed the bill, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Trump “supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House.”
“Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two year budget caps deal.” Shah said. “However, as the deal is negotiated, the president wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats.”
Staff Writer Barrie Barber contributed to this report