Congress comes back to work with deadlines on difficult issues — how to fund the government and avoid a shutdown, stabilizing the nation’s health-insurance program for poor children, and whether to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
WASHINGTON — Congress faces a jampacked to-do list this month with deadlines looming on difficult issues — including how to fund the government and avoid a shutdown, stabilizing the nation’s health-insurance program for poor children, and whether to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Fresh off a party-line vote in favor of legislation overhauling the tax code, the negotiations will test whether Congress and the White House still have the potential to craft any form of bipartisan agreement. If so, several of the year’s most contested issues might be resolved with months to spare before the 2018 midterm campaign heats up.
If not, the government could soon be on the verge of a shutdown, with pressing questions regarding health care, immigration and other policies left unresolved. Also on the agenda is emergency relief for regions upended by last year’s natural disasters, a key national-security program and the fate of an agreement to stabilize health-insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act.
Officials in both parties hope to make progress by Jan. 19, when a short-term government funding bill that Congress passed last month expires. The Senate returns Wednesday, and the House returns next Monday.
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On Wednesday, senior congressional leaders from both parties will meet at the Capitol with White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and legislative-affairs director Marc Short to renew talks on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which expires on March 5. In September, President Donald Trump decided to sunset the program — started under President Barack Obama — that protects 700,000 young immigrants, often called Dreamers, from deportation.
Congressional Republicans and the White House have demanded that any deal to protect these immigrants include stronger border enforcement — but exactly what that looks like is expected to be a key sticking point in negotiations.
“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain…