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Will Sticking Points Lead To A Government Shutdown?


A government shutdown could be looming. I know we've heard this before. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by tomorrow to keep the lights on, and they are expected to pass yet another temporary measure pushing off spending negotiations into the new year. Here are a few sticking points. Republicans want more military spending.

Meanwhile, Democrats want more permanent funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program and additional funding to deal with the opioid crisis. Democrats and also some Republicans have been pushing for a fix to DACA. That's the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally. Let's talk all of this through with Maryland's Steny Hoyer. He is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives.

Congressman, good morning.

STENY HOYER: Good morning, David. Good to be with you.

GREENE: Well, it's good to have you. Thank you. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to you and all of your members, urging them to vote no on a temporary spending bill as of yesterday. Has anything changed?

HOYER: No. I think nothing's changed in terms of that advice to our members. We'll have a discussion about that at 9 o'clock this morning in our whip meeting. But clearly, what we've seen - this is another kicking the can down the road - the Republicans have spent all their time for the last 11 months dealing with undermining the Affordable Care Act, and taking health care away from millions and millions of Americans and doing a tax bill in a very short period of time, jamming it through - no hearings, no witnesses, no real consideration in the conference committee - and passed a bill yesterday and sent it to the president, a bill which The Washington Post headline says gives massive gains for businesses and the rich.

In fact, it gives 83 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent in America and 17 percent for everybody else. So it's a bill that really hurts Americans and raises taxes over its lifetime on 86 million Americans. And the problem is that that's what they've been paying attention to. Now we get to the end of the year. We haven't sent a single appropriation bill to the president. We haven't reauthorized the CHIP program, which affects millions of children's health. We haven't done...

GREENE: Well, if I could jump in - if you forgive me for that...

HOYER: Yeah, sure.

GREENE: I want to ask you about the CHIP program because the legislation that the Republican leadership put out yesterday would do something. It would keep CHIP funding going through March. Why is that not good enough to keep the government open? And then you could return in a few months to make sure, you know, that you can have a chance to try and get your funding for longer.

HOYER: Well, that's certainly better than doing nothing. But again, we've been treading water for 11 months. CHIP expired on September 30, so it's now three months after we should've taken action on it. And extending it again undermines the ability of the people who are delivering the health care benefits to plan and to know what resources they have available to us. Obviously, extending it four months is better than letting it die. We agree with that. But there's so many things that have not been included in this bill that should've been included in this bill.

GREENE: Well, one of them I know that was important to a lot of Democrats was something to protect the young immigrants and DACA and so-called DREAMers.

HOYER: That's right.

GREENE: And I mean, there were some DREAMers on Capitol Hill protesting and protesting you - your party - saying, you told us you would get something done, now it - you know, they feel like it's looking like that's not going to happen if this stopgap measure passes. What do you say to them?

HOYER: I say to them, look, we can't put bills on the floor. We can't make the Republicans put it on the floor. We can oppose legislation that doesn't do what we think ought to be done. In the case of the DREAMers bill, the present of the United States says he loves the DREAMers. The president of the United States said he would sign a DREAMers bill if it was sent to him. He said this over three months ago, and we have been unable to get the Republicans to put a bill on the floor, which, in my opinion, would get in the House over 300 votes.

Why the Republican leadership refuses to put something on the floor that I think we had general agreement on, particularly when the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, urged the president not to withdraw the protections that the DREAMers had under the Obama DACA program - so it's incomprehensible to me as to why they have not moved forward on that. And we have 122 DREAMers losing their protection every day in America. There's no reason to have delayed, and I don't know why it's not included in this piece of legislation.

GREENE: Let me just - I mean, just to nail you down - you are still willing at this point to vote against a temporary measure rather than just get - keep the government going and start dealing with some of these issues in the larger debate in the new year.

HOYER: Look, the Republicans have the votes to do whatever they want to do. We can't either shut down or keep the government open, unfortunately. There's nobody that doubts the - that the Democratic Party wants to keep government operating on behalf of the American people. There's no doubt either that when the government's been shut down in the past, the only people have shut it down intentionally are the Republicans. They did it in the '90s. They did it just a couple of years ago because of the Affordable Care Act. So that - we don't want to shut down government.

GREENE: We'll suddenly have to leave it there, Congressman.

HOYER: We're certainly not going to vote to shut down the government.

GREENE: Congressman Steny Hoyer - thanks for the time this morning. We appreciate it.

HOYER: You bet.

GREENE: Want to just bring in NPR's Tamara Keith briefly. Tam, he - pointing a lot of fingers there, saying the Republicans the only one who shut down the government, it's the Republicans' fault for not dealing with these issues. How fair are those accusations?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Basically what he's saying here is that Democrats in the House, at least, are going to make Republicans take what, for them - for many of them - fiscal conservatives - it will be a very hard vote. And he's basically saying Republicans, you're in control; this one's on you.

GREENE: Which - and that is true. Although, I mean, a lot Republicans might say when Democrats have been in this situation, they've done the same sorts of things. But passing the buck to Republicans, I guess, is something the Republicans, as a reality, they do have to face.

KEITH: This is the majority and the minority. That's the ballgame.

GREENE: NPR's Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.