House Democrats are agitating for a Wednesday vote to pass a temporary shutdown patch, even as the majority party struggles to reach a deal that Senate Republicans will support.
Congressional leaders on Tuesday evening continued to bandy over the terms of the next stopgap spending bill, with just over three days left before federal funding expires. Since cash for the military and nondefense agencies is set to run out at midnight on Friday, Democrats need to swiftly finalize the next continuing resolution by midweek, or risk running out of time to pass it through both chambers before a shutdown strikes.
But the two parties are still at odds over main conditions of the measure, which would keep government funding levels largely the same: how long the patch will last and which spending areas will be exceptions and receive a boost.
“We’re waiting for the Senate to decide what date they can agree on, which is ridiculous,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday night.
The majority leader argued during a closed-door meeting late Tuesday that House Democrats needed to bring the measure to the floor on Wednesday, with or without the bipartisan blessing of their Senate counterparts, according to sources in the room. If that goal slips, the timeline quickly gets dicey in the Senate, where GOP lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have a record of objecting to fast-tracked debate on funding bills, triggering government shutdowns like the brief lapse he spurred in 2018.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) instead pushed for more time to reach a deal with Republicans. The meeting grew tense as Hoyer expressed his frustration over ensuring the next funding deadline falls on a date the House is scheduled to be in session and that his chamber acts quickly enough to prevent a shutdown this week.
DeLauro is working to clinch a deal with Republicans by Wednesday morning. But most Democrats in the meeting, including the top leaders, agreed the House needed to vote that day regardless of progress on negotiations.
While Democrats have proposed keeping the government funded until sometime in January, Republicans are pushing for a longer stopgap. They argue that the two parties will need more time to strike a sweeping funding deal that updates spending levels for the Pentagon and every domestic agency of the federal government.
“The question is not January … or February, or even March,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his party’s top appropriator in the Senate. “I think the real question is: When do we sit down and talk substantively?”
A Senate GOP aide said on Tuesday afternoon that minority party leaders were seeking “an appropriate amount of time” to work through cross-party negotiations on a broader funding package. “For success in the long run, [a stopgap] that gives sufficient leeway is important in the short term,” the Republican aide said.
Republicans say those talks will take longer than usual this year, considering Democrats are seeking historic increases in nondefense spending and will not cede upfront to GOP demands — such as including the Hyde amendment, a Republican-led policy that bans federal funding being used to perform abortions.
A top House Democratic aide said on Tuesday that Republicans in both chambers had “refused to negotiate” all year over funding the government. “… while House and Senate Democrats have put forward their proposals, Republicans have not presented an offer of their own,” said Evan Hollander, the majority party’s leading spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.
Setting aside that dispute over the funding patch’s length, Democrats and Republicans are still at loggerheads over what exceptions will be included in the bill. Leaders have discussed several so-called anomalies, including adding funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, Afghan resettlement efforts and to increase pay for congressional staff. The legislation could also include stipulations to prevent cuts to programs like Medicare and farm subsidies.
Republican leaders have for weeks been considering how to negotiate the next spending patch, as Democrats publicly called on them to make a counteroffer to their proposed funding bills.
The GOP has threatened to ultimately force Democrats into a “full-year” stopgap if the majority party doesn’t cave to a slew of Republican funding demands before broader negotiations even begin.
“We’re not going to talk substantively with them about moving the bill, not just a CR, until they get serious about it,” Shelby said this week.
Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.