December 20, 2017 / 12:12 AM / a year ago

FACTBOX-Big-ticket items at center of U.S. Congress funding battle

    Dec 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress is weighing military
spending, healthcare and other major decisions tied to a
temporary funding bill to keep the government operating beyond
Friday, as lawmakers rush to begin a year-end recess.
    Republicans control the House of Representatives and Senate,
but disagreements between the two chambers, along with
differences between Republicans and Democrats, make for
potentially difficult days ahead.
    The following are the big initiatives under consideration:
    Money expires at midnight on Friday for the operation of
most federal agencies. That is because Congress has failed to
approve the regular appropriations bills for the fiscal year
that began on Oct. 1 and Washington has been operating on a
series of temporary funding bills.
    The House is proposing another temporary extension - one
that would run through Jan. 19, 2018. It is unclear whether the
Senate would stick with that date or seek a slightly later one
to give Congress more time to write legislation funding agencies
through Sept. 30.
    President Donald Trump is pushing for a significant increase
in defense spending. Conservatives in Congress want to include
that money in the stopgap funding bill this week. But Senate
Democrats are expected to block it until negotiators can reach a
deal on coupling more non-defense spending with a bigger
military budget.
    Congress is likely to include $81 billion to help Puerto
Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and several states recover from
severe hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
    The Children's Health Insurance Program, which helps provide
medical care to nearly 9 million children in low-income
families, is slated for a five-year renewal by the House. But
the Senate might balk at the way it is structured. It was
unclear whether it would opt for temporary funding.             
    The Senate might attach a bipartisan measure that maintains
healthcare subsidies for low-income people participating in the
Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Many House
Republican lawmakers dislike that idea.
    The National Security Agency's warrantless internet
surveillance program under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act could be renewed, but there are competing versions of such
legislation in the House and Senate.              
    Legislation to protect "Dreamers" from deportation is not
expected to be included, despite Democrats' push to resolve the
issue by year's end. Negotiators are trying to reach a deal on
helping the immigrants, many from Mexico and Central America,
who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The
issue is expected to come back to life in early 2018.

 (Reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Caren
Bohan and Peter Cooney)
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