WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan said Senate Democrats are using “dreamers” to threaten a government shutdown at the expense of a proper military budget, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans are to blame for the impending shutdown, which she said would be at the expense of funding for children’s health, during back-to-back news conferences Thursday.
At his press briefing, Ryan emphasized the importance of fully funding the military, calling it the first responsibility of the government.
“Unfortunately, Democrats don’t seem to share they urgency at all,” he said. “They continue to hold military funding hostage over unrelated issues and deadlines that don’t exist.”
Congress must pass a spending bill by midnight Friday, when funding to operate the government ends under a current stopgap spending bill and most government agencies would have to shut down.
The federal government has been operating through short-term spending bills, often a month or less, rather than the traditional annual appropriations for a number of years.
Pelosi began her press conference by stating that House Democrats will oppose the GOP spending bill, called a continuing resolution, because it does not include full funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and its related health programs, which has nearly run out of money.
“This is like giving you a bowl of doggy doo putting a cherry on top and calling it a sundae,” Pelosi said. “We want a permanent CHIP solution, we want to fight opioid addiction, protect our ‘dreamers’ and fund community health centers.”
The Republicans’ stopgap spending bill doesn’t address a long-term deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is a high priority for Democrats. President Donald Trump ended the program, which provides temporary visas for young people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, effective March 5 unless Congress passes legislation to preserve it.
Pelosi also stated that Democrats planned to introduce a bill by Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia later Thursday that would renew CHIP and its related health programs.
Ryan told reporters that Democrats should join in passing a renewal of CHIP as part of the short-term spending bill and emphasized the need to pass a budget for the military that would extend to the end of the current fiscal year.
He warned that the military’s readiness capabilities face serious deterioration if it continues to operate on short-term funding.
“If the Senate Democrats want to shut the government down, if the Senate Democrats want to deny funding for our troops, if the Senate Democrats want to stop CHIP funding for unrelated issues, that’s a choice they make,” Ryan said.
Pelosi mentioned that House Democrats wrote a letter to the president detailing their terms for keeping the government open, which includes more funding for domestic programs such as CHIP, as well as supporting military and veterans’ programs.
“Right now, we’re in a moment of truth,” Pelosi said. “We need to sit down and get this done, but there seems to be some resentment on the other side of the aisle on having our domestic agenda funded. I do know that passing a fourth continuing resolution is a bad idea.”
A previous Senate budget deal, which included an extension for DACA, increased border security funding and changes to “chain migration” and the visa lottery program, fell through last week following the revelations of President Trump’s alleged denigrating remarks regarding Haiti and African nations.