Senate Sends Trump Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown

With long-term funding still unresolved, the Senate acted quickly Friday to clear a week-long continuing resolution that will keep the government from a shutdown for another week.

The approval, by voice vote, followed a bipartisan vote in the House in favor of the latest stopgap. The measure now heads to President Donald Trump for his anticipated signature before funding lapses at midnight.

That should give negotiators time to seal the deal on an omnibus spending bill running through September.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Appropriations Committee staff stayed up until 1:30 a.m. Thursday continuing to hash out differences on a fiscal 2017 wrapup.

“But we still have some progress to go,” the New York Democrat said.

Senior Appropriations Committee aides have been regularly burning the midnight oil to finalize the agreement. Schumer had blocked an attempt by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to preemptively deem the continuing resolution passed upon its arrival from the House on Friday, necessitating the Friday session.

“We’re willing to extend things for a little bit more time in hopes that the same kind of progress can continue to be made, but we still have a little bit of a ways to go, we still have some poison pill riders that they have to drop,” Schumer told reporters of the state of play on the broader bill Friday morning.

Republican and Democratic sources signaled that additional policy riders had entered the conversation, including language related to blocking provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial regulator overhaul and the National Labor Relations Board.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said it was his understanding that Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin wanted to see the omnibus filed in the House on Monday, setting up likely floor votes on Thursday. That would give the Senate a short window to clear that measure before the newly passed continuing resolution is set to lapse.

The one-week continuing resolution, which is nothing more than a date change, also extends health care benefits for coal miners that have been at issue throughout the spending debate.

McConnell highlighted that issue Friday morning in opening the Senate floor.

“Importantly, this one-week extension will also ensure that thousands of retired coal miners and their families, including many in my home state of Kentucky and home state of the presiding officer, West Virginia, will not lose their health care benefits. Protecting these miners and their families from losing their health care has been a top priority of mine as well as the occupant of the chair,”

The Republican made the remarks while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was presiding over the Senate. She along with her Democratic colleague from West Virginia Joe Manchin III have been among the most vocal advocates of benefits for the miners.

It appeared that in addition to miner benefits, the omnibus would include funding to help address a Medicaid crisis in Puerto Rico.

McConnell said the stopgap, “will carry us through next week so that a bipartisan final agreement can be reached and so that members will have time to review the legislation before we take it up.”

Bridget Bowman and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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Democrats may be frustrated about the pace of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but recent reports of trouble could be overblown.

A congressional source familiar with the committee’s work noted in particular the reported concerns about the Intelligence panel not having a full time staff for the investigation. The individuals detailed to work on the probe are spending roughly 95 percent of their time working on Russia’s activities in the United States, the source said.

The Daily Beast had reported that there were just seven “part-time” staff members working on the Russia probe.

There is reason for frustration about the lack of process, which is said to be shared in part by Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said a person familiar with the senator’s views.

A source said there would be complications getting additional staff members the needed clearances and access from intelligence agencies to documents that had previously only been accessible to the “gang of eight” — the group of top congressional and intelligence committee leaders.

Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican involved in the investigation, responded to the reports with a Monday afternoon Tweet.

“Reports about #Russia probe are wrong. Don’t confuse silence for lack of progress. Intel Cmte must conduct classified investigations quietly,” Lankford said.

Before the two-week Easter recess, Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Warner appeared together to signal unity on the plan for the investigation.

“I’ll do something I’ve never done. I’ll admit that I voted for him. We always hide who we vote for,” Burr said at a news conference. “That’s part of the democratic process, but I’ve got a job in the United States Senate, and I take that job extremely seriously. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.”

Following the work of the Senate Intelligence panel can be maddening because it conducts its work in such a secretive manner, for obvious national security reasons. But aides on both sides of the aisle said Monday that it was their understanding the bipartisan work was continuing.

No one should be hoping for or expecting a quick result.

A source said the committee has now finished a first round of interviews with analysts from within the intelligence community, a process that will lead the committee staff to speak with additional people from the intelligence community this week.

The Intelligence Committee has not seen high-profile public hearings with figures from the Trump campaign or the transition, which may be some of the source of the frustrations that have begun to emerge with Burr.

According to a report from Yahoo! News, Burr has thus far declined to sign letters requesting e-mails and other records from President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign operation that might (or might not) point toward collusion between campaign officials and Russian operatives.

Burr’s office declined to comment for this story in response to the reported criticism.

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