U.S. Senate moves on short-term spending bill in struggle to avoid shutdown days away
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., center, speaks to reporters on Sept. 26, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate is on track to clear a short-term government funding bill in the days ahead, but it wasn’t clear Tuesday if that would happen before the Saturday midnight deadline to avert a shutdown, or if House GOP leaders would put the bill up for a vote in that chamber.
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on the bipartisan Senate spending bill during a press conference Tuesday evening, or say what he would do if the House cannot pass a short-term spending bill and the Senate can ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline.
“Ask me when they pass that,” McCarthy said.
That means there is no certain path ahead as the days until a shutdown dwindle.
Congress must approve and President Joe Biden must sign some sort of government spending measure before the start of the new fiscal year on Sunday, otherwise a partial government shutdown with wide-reaching impacts would begin.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday the stopgap spending bill from the Senate is “a good, sensible and bipartisan bill.”
November end date
The Senate’s continuing resolution would extend current government funding and policy through Friday, Nov. 17, just before both chambers are set to go on their week-long Thanksgiving break.
“Over the weekend Senate Democrats and Republicans together worked in good faith to reach agreement on a continuing resolution that will keep the government open beyond Sept. 30,” Schumer said, referring to one name for a short-term funding bill.
“This bipartisan CR is a temporary solution — a bridge towards cooperation and away from extremism,” Schumer said. “And it will allow us to keep working to fully fund the federal government and spare American families the pain of a government shutdown.”
Schumer urged lawmakers to approve the stopgap spending bill later this week, saying the continuing resolution “is a bridge, not a final destination.”
The CR, Schumer said, is intended to give the House and Senate more time to reconcile the differences between the 12 annual, full-year government funding bills.
The stopgap bill also includes funding security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and money for natural disaster recovery, Schumer said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to support the short-term funding bill and not press for a partial government shutdown.
“In order for work on appropriations to continue uninterrupted, Congress needs to extend government funding by the end of this week,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The sooner Congress keeps the lights on, the sooner these important conversations can resume.”
“The clearest path forward is a standard short term continuing resolution,” McConnell said.
Kentucky’s other senator, Rand Paul, has said more than once that he will not give the consent needed for the Senate to quickly pass the short-term spending bill. Paul is opposed to additional aid to Ukraine.
The Senate legislation would provide $4.5 billion for the U.S. Defense Department as well as $1.65 billion for the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to send assistance to Ukraine.
Ongoing disaster recovery would be bolstered with $6 billion in additional spending for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund.
The funding is significantly less than the $24 billion for Ukraine and $12 billion for FEMA the Biden administration asked Congress to provide in a supplemental spending request it released in August.
The short-term spending bill would prevent wildland firefighters from receiving a pay cut that would otherwise begin on Oct. 1.
The bill would extend several expiring authorizations, including for the Federal Aviation Administration, which would go until the end of the year, and the National Flood Insurance Program, which would be extended through Nov. 17.
House GOP starts debate
U.S. House Republicans also made some progress Tuesday over funding the government, though not toward reaching agreement on the continuing resolution that they need to pass this week.
The House voted to begin debate on the Agriculture-FDA, Defense, Homeland Security and State-Foreign Operations government spending bills. The vote was 216-212. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was the sole GOP lawmaker to vote against the procedural step.
McCarthy said during the Tuesday evening press conference that he planned to put a GOP continuing resolution on the floor later this week that also includes border security provisions. That spending proposal was released earlier this month and hasn’t yet garnered the support needed to go to the floor.
Any House CR wouldn’t be able to pass the Senate unless it could attract the support of at least 60 senators, making it unlikely the proposal would become law.
McCarthy also chastised senators who back aid to Ukraine, saying if they want to “focus on Ukraine and not focus on the Southern border, I think your priorities are backwards.”
Biden on Monday criticized McCarthy for not adhering to the spending caps agreement the two reached when they brokered a debt limit deal in May.
“We made a deal. We shook hands. We said, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ and now they’re reneging on the deal, which is not much of a surprise these days,” Biden said.
Americans, he said, shouldn’t allow the GOP to stay in power if they can’t avoid a partial government shutdown.
“Funding the government is one of the most basic fundamental responsibilities of the Congress,” Biden said. “And if Republicans in the House don’t start doing their job, we should stop electing them.”
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