December 8, 2017 / 4:56 PM / a year ago

Trump signs temporary spending bill as budget talks intensify

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation to fund the federal government for two weeks, giving congressional negotiators more time to work out budget priorities through next September and other thorny policy matters.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a post on Twitter that Trump, as expected, signed the stop-gap funding bill that averts a shutdown of federal agencies at midnight when existing money runs out.

For months, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have been working behind the scenes to hammer out a deal to fund government for fiscal 2018, which began on Oct. 1. Absent that deal, Washington has been operating on temporary spending bills.

Much of the negotiation centers around Republican demands for increased military spending. Democrats say the Pentagon does need more money, but they argue that an array of other domestic programs also face shortfalls.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said on Friday that the negotiators are trying to figure out how to divide up $200 billion over two years in additional funding.

That much of a spending increase is setting off alarms among conservative Republicans.

Representative Mark Meadows, who heads the House Freedom Caucus comprised of about three dozen of some of the most conservative members of Congress, said that $70 billion to $80 billion in added spending would be more reasonable.

The caucus is pushing for Pentagon increases without more money for other domestic programs.

Besides the spending levels, the Democratic aide said negotiators are hoping to come to a deal on protecting around 700,000 undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children, from possible deportation.

Other elements of the negotiations include new disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico and U.S. states hard-hit by hurricanes and wildfires, as well as funding for a children’s health-insurance program for low-income families and money for community health centers.

Many in Congress hope the negotiations on these issues can be wrapped up before Dec. 22, when current funding expires and lawmakers hope to leave Washington for a winter break.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton; additional reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Grant McCool

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