Congressional leaders began contingency planning for another near-term funding fix Thursday, with no breakthrough on a sweeping bipartisan spending deal and just over two weeks until federal cash runs out.
Principals are appropriating deals all week, rushing to lock in both spending totals for the Pentagon and non-defense programs. But even if they reach an overall agreement in their ongoing meetings, it could take weeks to iron out the details of the 12 bills that come in a catch-all funding package.
So Democratic leaders began a now familiar song and dance: preparing to pass a rolling resolution to push back the funding deadline for a few more days or weeks, to avoid the risk of a government shutdown at midnight on February 18. . Congress has already passed two such funding fixes since the start of the new fiscal year in October.
The House could vote as early as next week on a short-term stopgap, according to Rep. David Price (DN.C.), who chairs the panel writing the Transportation-HUD piece of the funding package.
While that timeline would primarily protect the House’s previously scheduled two-week break, it could prematurely ease the pressure in cross-party negotiations toward a grand compromise — which could further hamper the Democrats’ goal of passing a bill. legislation with new funding levels for the first time under President Joe Biden.
“Getting the number is one thing,” Price said, acknowledging that it usually takes several more weeks for a financing plan to be fully negotiated once the two grand totals are set.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his party’s chief steward of Senate ownership, said Wednesday night that negotiators were still working to reach agreements on defense funding and political “riders.” — controversial spending stipulations like the Hyde Amendment’s ban on abortion funding.
“We’re not there yet,” Shelby said. “Maybe we’ll get there, maybe not.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the spending panel that funds the military, said his bill ‘could be done very quickly’ once the parties reach an agreement on spending total for the Pentagon and non-defence programs. But time is running out, he added.
“We need to get a first line very very soon, because right now – just to write this fucking thing – we might need a week [long] CR,” Tester said, using shorthand for an interim expense bill. “So the first line should arrive yesterday.”
If the parties can reach a deal, House Democratic leaders should need the vast majority of their 222 lawmakers to vote in favor of the package — a tough sell for progressives who oppose increased Pentagon funding. . But Tester predicted that House Democrats would match any funding deal that could pass the upper house.
“Four people — Leahy, Shelby, McConnell, Schumer — that’s how it’s all locked down,” Tester said, suggesting that only Shelby, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chief of Minority Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer must approve the deal.
“I don’t know about the House. If we do that here, I think the Chamber will come with us — I really do,” Tester said.
Any final funding package leaders might shake should include the hundreds of billions of dollars in appropriations that House Democrats approved last summer. They revived the controversial practice of allowing lawmakers to request funding for specific projects, rather than leaving those decisions solely to federal agencies that handle the money.
All posting applications are now posted online, an attempt to prevent the kind of corruption that landed lawmakers in jail over bribes more than a decade ago. Other new rules prevent funds from going to for-profit recipients, and lawmakers and their immediate families cannot have a financial stake in the projects.
House Republicans voted in a secret ballot last summer to go along with the Democrats’ renewal of assignments. In the Senate, Republicans passed a nonbinding ban on postings in 2010, but several GOP senators publicly support the practice, while many others won’t commit to waiving posting requests.