WASHINGTON — With a potential shutdown looming, a bipartisan budget deal that is expected to pass the Senate on Thursday faces a decidedly uncertain future in the House of Representatives. With the conservative House Freedom Caucus opposed to the agreement, it is unlikely to pass without Democratic support. However, Yahoo News obtained an email Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s office sent to Democratic House members urging them to vote against the deal.
“DEMOCRATS ARE URGED TO VOTE NO ON THE BUDGET DEAL,” the message said.
That instruction was prefaced with a request for members to tell House Democratic leadership how they’ll vote on the agreement — a sign that party leaders are trying to figure out where their members stand. Indeed, multiple top Democratic House staffers told Yahoo News that there is uncertainty among members about how many will follow leadership and vote against the agreement.
The government is set to shut down at midnight unless a budget deal is done. The Senate agreement would avert a shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded for two years. It earned bipartisan support in the Senate because it contains increased spending for both defense and domestic programs. Pentagon budget increases have been a long-term goal of Republicans, and Democrats demanded they be coupled with funding for other programs.
Opposition to the agreement from Democrats stems from the fact that it does not address the expiring DACA program that shields from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Democrats initially vowed not to back any budget deal that did not reinstate DACA in some form. Former President Barack Obama established the program through executive action in 2012, but President Donald Trump rescinded it last year, calling for congressional legislation to address the issue.
Last month’s brief government shutdown ended after Senate Democrats backed off that demand and supported the short-term measure that is keeping the government open through Thursday evening. That short-term deal did not need the support of House Democrats to pass, and members of the party’s liberal wing are concerned they would be unable to obtain a DACA fix from Republicans without the leverage of a looming shutdown.
Senate Democrats got onboard with the short-term deal after Minority Leader Chuck Schumer extracted a promise from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would allow a vote on an immigration deal sometime soon. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she wants a similar pledge from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Pelosi spent a little over eight hours on Wednesday delivering a marathon speech on the House floor where she shared the stories of the so-called Dreamers, who are protected from deportation by DACA.
“Our basic request is to honor the House of Representatives, give us a chance to have a vote on the floor,” Pelosi said near the conclusion of her remarks.
In response to Pelosi’s remarks, a spokesperson for Ryan, AshLee Strong, issued a statement touting his willingness to address DACA.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” Strong said.
However, Strong’s statement did not confirm that Ryan would allow an open immigration debate on the House floor. It also suggested that Ryan would back immigration reform only along the lines dictated by Trump. Late last month, the White House released an immigration framework that included steps to preserve DACA, but also contained measures that are opposed by Democrats such as stepped-up border security funding and curbs to current levels of legal immigration.
At his weekly press conference on Thursday morning, Ryan urged House members of both parties to back the budget deal. He touted the increases in military spending as necessary and vital while promising wary Democrats “we want a DACA solution.”
“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment I share,” Ryan said. “To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign. We must pass this budget agreement first though so that we can get on to that.”
Neither Ryan or Pelosi’s office responded to a request for comment on this story from Yahoo News.
The conservative Freedom Caucus’s opposition to the budget deal stems from the fact that the spending increases will add to the national debt. In a text message to Yahoo News, Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, indicated that his group is staying firm in its opposition, leaving the deal in need of Democratic support. Meadows also predicted that Democrats would ultimately back the bill.
“It won’t pass without Democrat support, but I would estimate at least 100 Democrats vote for the budget deal today,” Meadows said.
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