Senate working to break GOP blockade before Friday closing deadline

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his party’s top Senate ownership official, said Wednesday he expects a cross-party agreement to eventually be reached to eliminate spending this week “and that people will not shut down the government.”

The interim bill would kick the next shutdown cliff to March 11, giving lawmakers another 21 days to finalize a massive 12-bill funding package that is expected to top $1.5 trillion and increase funding for military and non-military agencies through September.

Key ownership officials, as well as party leaders, are publicly and privately declaring that bipartisan talks are on track to complete this package by the mid-March deadline. After the two sides reached a block funding agreement last week, lawmakers in charge of the dozen spending bills are gearing up to negotiate more precise totals for every federal government agency and program.

“It gives us time. Within our framework, we are moving forward,” Shelby said Wednesday. “Nothing is final until we get there. But we are making good progress right now.

Democrats are saying the same about the prospects of finishing the 12-bill package before the March deadline. “Right now, yeah, I think we’re on the right track,” Sen said. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the defense spending panel.

In addition to core funding that should be in the package, the Biden administration also plans to seek billions of dollars in emergency spending. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told officials this week that his department needs at least $30 billion in additional cash to fend off Covid, funding efforts such as continued vaccine development. and treatments.

Republicans are not convinced by this additional aid. Shelby said Wednesday the appropriations were to “clean up” the White House’s request. “We have to look into it,” the Alabama Republican told reporters. “Where are we going to find the money?”

Lawmakers are also anticipating White House requests for other emergency funds, including help to continue recovery efforts after disasters like Hurricane Ida last summer.

Appropriation officials are under strict orders to remain silent on end-game funding negotiations and to keep secret the two “main” totals the parties have agreed to for defense funding and other funding. But total Pentagon funding is expected to exceed the $740 billion projected in the defense policy bill Congress approved in December, blowing well past the $715 billion requested by President Joe Biden in his budget proposal.

Democrats suggest a windfall of defense funding has swallowed up some of the spending the majority party was seeking on nondefense-related programs.

“You know that there have been significant additional funds allocated to defence. And when that happens, and there is a fixed top line, it trickles down to all the other committees and reduces their allocation,” Sen said. Chris Coon (D-Del.), chairman of the panel that funds the State Department and overseas operations.

Marianne LeVine and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.


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