By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic leaders in Congress on Monday accepted an invitation to meet U.S. President Donald Trump and Republicans for talks to avert a government shutdown this week, even as the Democrats pressed demands on funding priorities and protecting young immigrants.
House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who canceled a meeting with Trump last week after he posted a disparaging note about them on Twitter, said on Monday they hoped the president would remain open-minded about reaching a deal with Democrats.
“We need to reach a budget agreement that equally boosts funds for our military and key priorities here at home,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement. “There is a bipartisan path forward on all of these items.”
The meeting was scheduled for Thursday, a day before funding for the federal government is due to run out.
House Republicans over the weekend introduced a stopgap measure that would fund the government at current levels until Dec. 22 to give lawmakers time to reach a deal on a longer-term bill. Congress is expected to vote on the measure this week.
Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus asked House Republican leaders to extend the duration of the stopgap measure through Dec. 30 in exchange for their votes for the House to go to conference with the Senate on tax legislation, which moved Congress closer to a final bill for a major tax overhaul.
“There is a better chance of going to the 30th than the 22nd, but no commitment,” Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters.
The House Republican leadership agreed to consider the Dec. 30 date and talk to the Senate leadership about it, a House Republican leadership aide said.
Trump is scheduled to have lunch with Republican members of the Senate at the White House on Tuesday.
DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT NEEDED
Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate. But they will need some Democratic support to get the spending bill past Senate procedural hurdles that require 60 votes, since there are only 52 Republicans in the 100-member chamber.
Schumer said on Monday that everyone should be working to avoid a shutdown, and he did not believe Republican congressional leaders wanted one.
“The only one at the moment who’s flirted with a shutdown is President Trump, who tweeted earlier this year that ‘we could use a good shutdown to fix the mess,'” Schumer said.
The Republican bill will provide some short-term help for states that are running out of money to finance a health insurance program for lower-income children, Republican aides said.
Schumer and Pelosi on Monday listed that program among their priorities, which also included the opioid crisis, pension plans, rural infrastructure and protection for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.”
Those young immigrants must be taken care of now, Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin declared on the Senate floor. He said Democrats had offered in return to toughen border security, a Republican priority.
“How can we in good conscience pass a spending bill giving authority and resources to this administration to go out and arrest and deport these young people – and not address the underlying issue of their legality and future in the United States?” Durbin asked.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
WATCH: Franklin Graham tells Jeanine Pirro coronavirus pandemic is because of people sinning
Franklin Graham blamed sinners for the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic during a Saturday night appearance on Fox News.
Host Jeanine Pirro noted the growing death toll and wondered how God could let that happen.
"Well, I don't think it's God's plan for this to happen," Graham said.
"It's because of the sin that's in the world, judge," he argued.
"Man has turned his back on God, we have sinned against him, and we need to ask for God's forgiveness and that's what Easter's all about," he continued.
"This pandemic, this is the result of a fallen world that has turned its back on God," he added.
Drought causing water shortage amid coronavirus crisis in Chile
With historically low river flows and reservoirs running dry due to drought, people in central Chile have found themselves particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.
Years of resource exploitation and lax legislation have allowed most reservoirs in that part of the country to run dry.
"There are now 400,000 families, nearly 1.5 million people approximately, whose supply of 50 liters of water a day depends on tankers," Rodrigo Mundaca, spokesman for the Movement for the Defense of Water, the Earth and the Protection of the Environment, told AFP.
One of the main pieces of advice to protect people against coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly.
Trump warns of ‘tough week’ ahead — after the United States surpassed 300,000 coronavirus victims
US President Donald Trump warned Americans on Saturday to brace for a "very horrendous" number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days as the total number of global fatalities from the pandemic soared past 60,000.
As confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 300,000 with more than 8,300 deaths, there was some encouraging news in Italy and Spain.
Europe continues to bear the brunt of the epidemic, however, accounting for over 45,000 of the worldwide deaths, and Britain reported a new daily high in fatalities.
There are now more than 1.17 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world and there have been 63,437 deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year.