PBS在线收听:The deadlines, program lapses and other pressing issues facing Congress right now

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we turn our focus back to Congress and the whirlwind of issues facing lawmakers.

Here now is John Yang.

JOHN YANG: Thanks, Judy.

Looming deadlines, lapsed programs, and potential movement on pressing agenda items.

Here to explain what’s happening on the Hill is our own Hill watcher, Lisa Desjardins.

Lisa, let’s begin our alphabet soup with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Today was the deadline for beneficiaries whose status was going to expire before the March 5 sunset to reapply, to renew.

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

JOHN YANG: What is going on with the Hill effort to try to put this into law?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right. This is a lot to keep track of.

First, an update on how many applications have come in. Now, anyone under DACA has until midnight tonight local time to get their paperwork in to one of three centers. And I’m told by Citizenship and Immigration Services that some 36,000 people who are eligible have yet to reapply.

So, they have got a few hours to do that as of now.

Now, as for Congress, there actually is some movement, believe it or not, on this issue. There was a hearing yesterday in the Senate, in which, notably, two leaders from both parties, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Senator John Cornyn of Texas, seemed to indicate that there is room for agreement.

Let’s listen.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN,?R-Texas: Creating a legislative fix is the right thing to do. But there is a big caveat. Before we provide legal status to these young people, we must reassure and actually regain the public confidence that we’re serious when it comes to enforcing the law and securing our borders.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill.: Senator Cornyn, I couldn’t agree with you more. If we can sit down and come up with a reasonable list of border security provisions that will give us the peace of mind of assurance that we are doing our level best to stop those who shouldn’t be coming to the United States from coming here, I will join you in that effort.

LISA DESJARDINS: How about that, couldn’t agree with you more?

So, they are talking about a limited bill that would give status to so-called dreamers, or DACA recipients, and have some security elements.

And, John, today in the House, we heard similar from also the number two Republican and Democrat in that chamber as well.

JOHN YANG: Security elements, but not the wall?

LISA DESJARDINS: But not the wall. That is what came from — we heard that from Senator Grassley. There may be more discussion on that. We will see.

JOHN YANG: Now, continuing on, CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, funding ran out. This is a program administered by the states with federal funding. The federal funding ran out at the last of the last budget year, at the end of September.

What is going on to try to get that going again?

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. You hit it exactly.

So, CHIP is a major program. It did run out of federal funding September 30. This is something that Congress was well aware of. This is a big deal, because it provides health care for nine million American children.

Each state is affected differently, because the states have a different set of rules. But, John, 10 states say they will completely run out of funds for this by the end of the year.

Where are we in Congress? Well, there was some hope last week, as the Senate was able to pass a deal through committee — or — I’m sorry — they passed a deal this week through committee, almost unanimously. That was a big sign of positivity on this issue.

But then, yesterday in the House, a different approach. House Republicans instead went with a partisan deal that Democrats don’t like and would have trouble in the Senate.

So, to be honest, John, it’s not clear what is going to happen to this program. Everyone would like to renew the funding, but there are real issues still on the table.

JOHN YANG: Do you think it would not be renewed, or would it have to wait until the big budget spending bill at the end of the year?

LISA DESJARDINS: I think that is right.

Everyone wants to renew it. There could just be a short-term renewal of some sort, if they just can’t agree on a long-term fix. But right now, with the way Congress is, it is very hard to say.

JOHN YANG: So, the budget resolution started moving today. The House passed its version. The Senate Budget Committee sent its version to the floor. This is something that is supposed to happen every year, but why is it particularly important this year?

LISA DESJARDINS: I want to stress to people, the word budget sounds boring. You don’t want to pay attention to it.

But it is incredibly important this year. As you said, the House passed its version today. And the reason it’s critical, John, is, both chambers must pass a budget this year in order to allow Republicans to pass tax reform.

They want to change our entire tax code to do it. They first have to pass budgets which allow them to get to that special 50-vote rule in the Senate. Another thing that is really important to watch here, John, is the way they want to do it. Republicans want spending cuts. And, in fact, they also have included in one version of the budget a Medicare overhaul.

So it is really important to watch what they do here with the money. There could also be some deficit spending in tax reform. All of that comes to a head inside the budget. So, every little dollar that they put in this outline that is the budget could matter.

JOHN YANG: The House wants — the House calls for deficit-neutral. The Senate is calling for about, what, $1.5 trillion deficit spending in order for the tax cut, right?

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s exactly right.

Think of it. The House budget goes after things, like it would change Medicare overall. It would reform Medicare in a way that many in the Senate don’t necessarily think would pass there. But the Senate, on the other hand, would add over a trillion dollars potentially to the deficit. And that’s something that the House doesn’t like.

So this leads to conflict ahead, but, right now, each chamber is taking its own route on the budget.

JOHN YANG: Less than 30 seconds.

LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

JOHN YANG: What are the chances of all this happening by the end of the year?

(LAUGHTER)

LISA DESJARDINS: Not good that all of it happens by the end of the year. But I think the date to watch is December 8. That’s when the next spending bill for all of government runs out.

Many of my sources say they think a lot of this could let lumped into one giant bill or debate around that time.

JOHN YANG: Lisa Desjardins, thanks a lot.

LISA DESJARDINS: Sure thing.

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