Congress’ Shutdown Solution: $1.1 Trillion Spending Deal Sidesteps Immigration

In a last minute negotiation, members of Congress announced a $1.1 trillion dollar government spending plan that might narrowly avoid another costly government shutdown. House representatives attached a number of conditions on the bill, including rolling back environmental regulations and financial regulations from the Dodd-Frank law, as well as changes to marijuana possession laws in the District of Columbia.

Still, House Speaker John Boehner managed to sidestep one of the Republican party’s biggest contentions with the President, the new executive orders that will protect nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The spending legislation comes just two days before a new shutdown and will fund the entire government for one fiscal year, with one major exception. Congress’ bill only provides funding for the Department of Homeland Security until February, after the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate are sworn into office.

Meaning that the Congressional Republicans will be able to delay the fight with Obama over his controversial immigration policies until they have more leverage.

In the meantime, the Republican House passed a separate bill to stop the president’s executive orders, a bill that is largely seen as symbolic since it has almost no chance of passing the still-Democrat controlled Senate. Nevertheless, it allows conservatives in Congress to win approval at home for appearing to oppose President Obama.

According to CNN, a final vote in the House of Representatives is expected on Thursday night, leaving just hours for the Senate to debate and vote on the bill to avoid a shutdown.

Still, plenty of contentious issues remain that could result in a new shutdown or a last second short-term measure. For one, the Congressional Republicans are proposing restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the president’s main instrument to enact his global warming policies. According to MSNBC, they’re also going after the Dodd-Frank financial regulations that Congress passed in 2010, specifically hoping to delay restrictions on trading certain high-risk derivatives.

Congressional Republicans might also take issue with the spending bill, especially those that think the risk of a government shutdown is the biggest opportunity they have to stop the executive orders. Furthermore, the bill will allocate nearly $1 billion dollars to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors coming over the border.

Arizona Republican Senator Matt Salmon described the bill as “a punt” and added that he predicted about 50 House Republicans would not vote for the spending measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also seemed hesitant about the bill’s chances of passing Congress and averting the shutdown.

“We’re ready to pass a yearlong spending bill to take care of this. We’ve been trying to work with Republican leaders to avoid a shutdown. There is going to come a time when they are going to have to take ‘yes’ for an answer. I guess they are not there yet.”

As Congress continues into crunch time, the specifics of the bill are likely to change rapidly but the government will likely avoid the shutdown in the end.

[Image Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com]