Shutdown looms as Congress initiates legislative ping pong
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives is expected to pass a short-term funding bill today to keep government running until March 23, in addition to a full-year extension for defense spending.
While Republicans signal that they have enough votes to pass the measure without Democratic support, the bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, where Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has signaled his opposition to cherry-picking defense appropriations apart from the other 11 spending bills.
“We want to fund defense, absolutely,” Schumer, D-New York, said during a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “We want to fund programs to help the middle class too, like education, like infrastructure, like scientific research. We’re standing up and saying we must do both.”
House Republicans, on the other hand, argue that their plan will buy appropriators enough time to finalize a looming deal to raise spending caps.
“It is absolutely vital that all 12 of the regular Appropriations bills be negotiated and signed into law,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, wrote in a statement announcing the release of the bill text. “This CR will allow for additional time for a deal to be reached on topline spending levels for this fiscal year. Once this agreement is made, my Committee will rapidly go to work with the Senate to complete the final legislation.”
The current stop-gap funding that ended last month’s 69-hour government shutdown is set to expire at the end of the day on Thursday night.
Without Democratic support in the upper chamber, the Senate appears likely to strip out the defense money, initiating a game of legislative ping pong that could drag on up to the deadline.
House Democrats are expected to travel to Cambridge, Md. on Wednesday for their policy retreat, and Republicans aren’t being told to stick around Washington to see how the Senate handles their bill, according to House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows.
A Democratic aide says their caucus has a contingency plan in place to bus members back to the Capitol, should the need arise.
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