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Senate mulls week-long bill to extend government funding deadline

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WASHINGTON — The Senate is considering a week-long interim bill to push back the Friday deadline for funding the government, as negotiators continue to seek a full-year funding deal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned members to expect a “continuing resolution,” or CR, this week to avoid a government shutdown “that neither side wants,” as the Congress is closing in on a spending package that leaders hope both sides can sustain.

“Over the weekend, those responsible for the appropriation had positive and productive conversations – enough for both parties to move forward in good faith to reach an agreement, even if that will not be all that the two parties want,” Schumer said Monday as the Senate returned. “Later this week, members should be ready to act quickly on a CR – a one-week CR, so we can give users more time to complete a full funding bill before the holidays.”

Schumer’s remarks represent optimism that the two sides will reach a broader deal that has eluded them for months. Heading into the weekend, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the GOP’s top appropriations official, said the parties were separated by about $26 billion on how much to spend.

Part of the struggle to agree on an overall spending level is Republican leaders saying military funding should be higher than nondefense funding in the broader package.

“Both parties know what it would take for the Senate to pass a government funding bill for the entire year,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday afternoon. “Our fellow Democrats have already spent two years massively increasing domestic spending using reconciliation bills outside of the normal appropriations process.”

He said if Democrats could accept less non-defensive money, “we might still have a chance to put together a full-year funding bill” this month. “If our fellow Democrats cannot come to terms with these realities, the option will be a short-term bipartisan funding bill through early next year.”

Among some Senate Republicans, there is a will to do so.

“These things always seem really, really difficult. And then … when they come together, they seem to come together pretty quickly,” Appropriations Committee member Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said Monday, though he warned that Congress will “just run out of days.” if the members fail to reach a larger deal quickly.

Boozman said he understands why some Republicans want to postpone the issue until next year, when his party takes control of the House. But he said he would prefer to finish it this year. “I personally think it would be smart to go ahead and do that,” he said.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a staunchly conservative congressman, immediately called on Republicans to reject the interim bill, which would extend the deadline from Dec. 16 to Dec. 23.

There are at least four Republicans in the Senate who have publicly called for delaying government funding until next year so the GOP-controlled House can rewrite the bill. If any of these senators object to the rapid passage of a stopgap measure, it could potentially force a government shutdown.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is retiring at the end of this term, said he believes Congress can still succeed in passing an omnibus this year.

“I think we’ll come up with something. I just wish it was months ago when he could have done the same thing,” he said on Monday. “If we don’t, we’ve failed the country. Certainly defense will be much, much lower. Non-defense will be much, much lower. Education will be much, much lower. much, much lower without omnibus.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he “shouldn’t tempt fate” when reporters asked if a new Dec. 23 funding deadline would hold.

“I’ve been here long enough. I am troubled by the possibility of this dragging on. I was here on Christmas Eve, things drag on. I’ve been here on New Years Eve too,” Durbin said. “So I am very worried. I think we have to act quickly and responsibly.

Haley Talbot contributed.



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