'No appetite' for a shutdown as Congress readies funding fix
Updated: 11/29/2021 04:19 PM EST
Democrats are preparing a temporary funding fix to keep the government open into the new year, with federal cash set to run out — again — at midnight on Friday.
The House could vote as early as Wednesday to avert a shutdown, sending the stopgap measure to the Senate. While leaders have yet to settle on an end date, they are mulling mid to late January.
That span would buy top lawmakers and the White House less than two months to hash out a bipartisan deal, which would include revamped spending totals for the military and all the other federal agencies that have been running on autopilot since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1.
Democrats had originally eyed a short-term funding fix that would expire before the holidays, hoping to keep the pressure on Republicans to negotiate a broader funding deal before Christmas. But GOP leaders have shown no inclination to participate in those talks, leveraging the threat of sticking Democrats with non-defense funding levels established when Donald Trump was president.
Republicans were planning to make Democrats a counteroffer for the next funding patch on Monday afternoon. A Senate GOP aide said Democrats “decided to start a conversation” about the stopgap on Sunday. Meanwhile, Democrats have accused Republicans of failing to negotiate on a broader funding agreement for weeks.
“We are working diligently and hope to reach a resolution“ by the deadline on Friday, the GOP aide said, adding that the length of the next temporary funding bill should provide Congress with “as much time as possible“ to work out a broader agreement.
A stopgap through the new year would remove one major legislative item from the calendar as Democrats race to pass President Joe Biden’s social spending package before Christmas. And, unlike Democrats' bill to expand the social safety net that can pass on party lines, the government funding deal requires buy-in from at least 10 Senate Republicans.
“People are very, very concerned,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said of funding the government through stopgap measures rather than full-year spending bills. “I’m getting calls every day — what does this mean for this program? What does it mean for that program? What’s going to happen? … We can get started if you want to get started, and you want to try to move forward.”
Despite the gridlock, lawmakers in both parties say a funding lapse is highly unlikely after the 35-day government shutdown that began just before Christmas three years ago.
“There is absolutely no appetite for a government shutdown on either side,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), his party’s top lawmaker on the House panel that funds the Department of Homeland Security.
Leaders must now decide what special exceptions they will include in the funding patch they endeavor to pass this week. The two parties often struggle to come to an agreement on those so-called “anomalies,” which boost spending or make policy exceptions for specific programs while the rest of the government continues to bump along under the same budget totals. For example, lawmakers have in recent years fought about special funding stipulations for controversial projects like the border wall.
Other possible hiccups include funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, money for Afghan resettlement efforts and ensuring that a proposed pay raise for congressional staff goes into effect.
“One good Republican anomaly is perhaps the bane of the Democratic appropriators’ existence,” Fleischmann said.
One major issue that is not expected to be addressed in the developing stopgap is the other imminent fiscal cliff: the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned leaders on Capitol Hill before Thanksgiving that the nation could default on its loans by Dec. 15 if Congress doesn’t act to raise or waive the cap on how much the country can borrow.
Congress may need to use the stopgap to head off cuts to programs like Medicare and farm subsidies , however. Slashes to those funds are slated to occur due to passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package in March — a byproduct of the budget reconciliation process that Democrats used to pass the bill without GOP votes.
While Congress has easily avoided such cuts in the past, they could take effect next month absent a bipartisan agreement to prevent them.
The Biden administration, through the Office of Management and Budget, has pressured congressional leaders in recent weeks to launch talks on a sweeping government funding deal. White House officials argue that flat funding, even in the short term, could hurt public health efforts and military readiness.
Last week, Biden formally nominated Shalanda Young , a veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, to lead OMB. Young has been serving as acting director after the Senate confirmed her in a bipartisan vote to the agency’s No. 2 post in March. At OMB’s helm, Young will have a critical role in government funding talks.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.