February 6, 2018 / 2:06 PM / in 6 months

U.S. House to vote on government funding as immigration battle simmers

WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on Tuesday on a short-term budget measure that would avert a rerun of last month’s three-day partial government shutdown, as lawmakers continued to grapple with divisive immigration measures.

The stop-gap measure drafted by House Republicans would extend funding through March 23, as well as provide for a year of funding for defense and two years of funding for community health centers, lawmakers said after they met on Monday night.

But Senate Democrats are likely to balk at the House spending bill, likely requiring a last-minute retooling before existing money for government agencies runs out on Thursday. Republicans also control the Senate, but with a slim 51-49 majority they need some Democratic support to pass spending bills.

To avert another shutdown, both the House and the Senate must pass at least a short-term spending bill, the latest in a series of such temporary measures that have become entwined with a months-long debate over protections for young “Dreamer” immigrants.

A vote on the House measure was expected after 11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT).

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Monday increasing defense appropriations through Sept. 30 while continuing negotiations on spending for non-defense programs.

But Democrats have rejected that idea. If the House passes a short-term funding measure with long-term defense funding it would fail in the Senate, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer has said. Lawmakers have also been struggling to reach a deal on an immigration bill, despite broad public support for helping Dreamers - immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Democratic former President Barack Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program to provide temporary protections for Dreamers, allowing them to study and work without fear of deportation.

Those protections were thrown into doubt last year when President Donald Trump ordered DACA halted on March 5, saying Congress should come up with a legislative solution. A federal court blocked the Trump administration last month from ending the program, and the administration’s appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are struggling to agree on bipartisan legislation that would protect Dreamers and boost border security. Trump has said any deal must also include funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Democrats strongly oppose. (Additional reporting by Amanda Becker; Writing by Eric Walsh and Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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