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Congress eyes one-week extension of government funding to avoid shutdown

Congress trying to avoid government shutdown
Democrats and Republicans in Congress work to find middle ground on government funding bill 04:04

Washington — Lawmakers should be prepared to act quickly to pass a resolution funding the federal government for one week as negotiators continue to work on a longer-term spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Schumer said the longer-term measure, known as an omnibus bill, is "by far the best solution for funding the government." He said the Senate should be prepared to pass the short-term extension by the end of the week.

Congress finds itself in a familiar position, facing a midnight Friday deadline to pass a spending bill to prevent a partial government shutdown. A vote to fund the government for one week gives negotiators more time, but also pushes back the deadline to Dec. 23, giving lawmakers more incentive to compromise as they face the prospect of being in Washington for the holidays.

Schumer also said he intends to include billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine in the omnibus bill, something that Senate leaders in both parties say is necessary as that country defends itself against Russia, as well as a measure aimed at reforming and clarifying the process for counting electoral votes.

House Democrats unveiled the text of the one-week extension on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said a final vote would come on Wednesday or Thursday "at the latest."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration believes there is sufficient time for Congress to pass a funding measure. But she added, "If they need extra days to get there, so be it."

The two parties are at odds mostly over how much should be allocated for non-defense spending in the next fiscal year. Republicans have argued that Democrats were already able to secure money for an array of health care and environmental priorities through previous party-line votes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said any final agreement needs to fund defense at the level written into a defense policy bill that passed the House last week, about $858 billion, and "without lavishing extra funding" beyond what President Biden has requested on domestic programs.

"Our Democratic colleagues have already spent two years massively, massively increasing domestic spending, using party-line reconciliation bills outside the normal appropriations process," McConnell said. "So, clearly our colleagues cannot now demand even more, more domestic spending than President Biden even requested in exchange for funding the United States military."

The Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday that Democratic and Republican negotiators are "very close" to reaching a deal on the omnibus spending plan that would be "broadly appealing" and meets the $858 billion funding level in the defense policy bill. But he warned that Congress needs to pass the long-term measure by Dec. 22, and failure to do so would require lawmakers to pass another short-term funding bill that keeps federal agencies operating into early next year, when the GOP takes control of the House.

"We intend not to be here between Christmas and New Year's," he said of Republicans.

GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said last week that the two parties are about $25 billion apart on non-defense, domestic spending in what is expected to be about a $1.65 trillion package.

With negotiations stalled last week, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was set to introduce a full-year spending bill Monday along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat of Connecticut. The two are the top Democrats on the appropriations committees in the Senate and House. Leahy said the bill would "provide the needed increase to non-defense programs to stave off inflation and serve the American people."

But Democratic leaders decided to delay their bill introduction. A Senate aide said that Leahy believed "sufficient progress" had occurred during talks over the weekend, so negotiations would continue.

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