By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday is expected to debate legislation funding federal government programs through March 11, and avoid a politically embarrassing partial government shutdown when existing funds expire on Feb. 18.
The move would give Democratic and Republican negotiators more time to work out funding for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement on Monday.
If approved by Congress, this would be the third such temporary funding measure since the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1.
House passage would send the bill to the Senate, which would attempt to approve it and send along to Democratic President Joe Biden for signing into law before the midnight Feb. 18 deadline. The effort will take bipartisan cooperation in the Senate, where at least 60 votes are needed to advance most legislation and Democrats control only 50 seats in the 100-member chamber.
Democrats and Republicans have been at odds for months over spending priorities in a massive appropriations bill with a price tag that is expected to be around $1.5 trillion.
Congress is scrambling to carry out one of its most basic duties: funding regular government operations ranging from military programs to securing airports, enforcing environmental laws and helping state and local governments with law enforcement, housing and education programs.
But with their control of the White House and Congress, albeit by the narrowest of margins, Democrats will be fighting to advance many initiatives that are important to their supporters in this so-called “omnibus” spending bill, especially with focus now turning to the Nov. 8 congressional elections.
These include $200 million for programs to get to the root of gun violence, which is responsible for more than 110 deaths daily in the United States, according to Rukmani Bhatia, senior federal affairs manager at the Giffords anti-gun violence organization.
Republicans are objecting to Democrats’ large increase in funding to battle climate change and have been blocking separate attempts to help “Dreamers”: immigrants brought into the United States as children illegally by parents or others.
The spending bill would allow these people, many of whom have grown up in the United States, to be hired for federal jobs.
Meanwhile, negotiators have been focusing on setting a top-line spending number, as Republicans insist that military spending be on par with domestic programs and Democrats push for more money for education and environmental programs.
(Reporting by Richard CowanEditing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)