Major disagreements hobble Congress budget talks

Congress budget talks

According to a senior lawmaker on Thursday, the U.S. Congress remains in disagreement over government funding. Republicans who are in control of both chambers continue to struggle in meeting conservative demands and show that they are capable of avoiding agency shutdowns.

The Friday midnight deadline is clearly impossible to meet. Therefore, the Senate has approved a stopgap measure which will extend the deadline for the time when the money runs out till next Wednesday. It was expected that the House of Representatives would pass the stopgap bill on Friday. Congress is at risk of pushing Washington into the second government shutdown since 2013 if it fails to pass the funding bill by Wednesday. Alternatively, Congress may have to approve yet another stopgap funding measure.

Simultaneously, Republicans are continuing their negotiations with Democrats on the $1.15 trillion package which will fund the government through till September, 2016. According to Republican Representative Hal Rogers, who is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee (which writes spending bills), negotiations are still taking place on the longer-term bill, but slowly. Up until now, an agreement has not been reached.

Controversial issues continue to plague negotiations and are succeeding in alienating and driving a wedge between the U.S. President’s Democrats and Republicans. According to newly appointed House Speaker Paul Ryan, both of the sides were in talks with each other. He could not, however, guarantee that there would be a deal reached by Wednesday.

Much (but by no means all) of the disagreements stem from Congress’s response to the recent gun-related massacres in California and, earlier, in Paris. Most of the world’s attention is focused today on these two violent attacks, which have some relation to the threat of the Islamic State. According to Rogers, pressures are there to include an initiative by Republicans that would, in effect, pause progress on President Obama’s refugee program for Syrians.

Nancy Pelosi, who is the House Democratic Leader, recently stated that Democrats are insisting on the bill containing language to end a ban on any funding for gun violence research. She was addressing a recent event which marked the third anniversary of a school shooting in Connecticut. Since the mid-90s, it has been a law, and according to Pelosi — who was, at the time, amongst relatives of gun victims — it is a horrible thing. According to the White House, the Republican’s insistence on such ideological measures is to be blamed for not reaching a consensus on the deal.

For new Speaker Ryan, the coming few days will certainly be a trial. John Boehner, his predecessor, quit after witnessing five years of this infighting with conservative Republicans. The latter wanted more deficit-reduction, but Boehner was unable to accomplish this feat.

On Thursday, the House Republicans’ Representative Tim Tim Huelskamp asked for a committee which influences appointments and legislation to crucial House positions in order to give these hardliners more say.

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