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Congress Has Three Days to Avert a Government Shutdown

Yuval Rosenberg

You may not have realized it with everything else going on, but we’re technically just a few days away from a government shutdown. Current funding for federal agencies expires after November 21 — that’s Thursday — and Congress will need to pass another stopgap spending bill this week to avoid a shutdown after that.

Lawmakers on Monday released the text of the continuing resolution to extend funding through December 20. The House is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday, with the Senate to follow later in the week. The White House has signaled that President Trump would sign off on the stopgap so long as Democrats don’t try to use the legislation to restrict funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, meaning that there’s likely little need to worry about a shutdown happening, at least this week.

Tricky talks: House and Senate leaders were not able to reach a deal on the short-term spending bill over the weekend due to disputes over several last-minute provisions.

Republicans insisted on a “clean” short-term bill, while House Democrats wanted to add some $7.5 billion in Census Bureau funding to provide the agency with its full operating budget ahead of the 2020 count, Politico reported. House Democrats reportedly also sought to address several other issues, including a military pay increase, lapsed funding for historically black colleges and a $7.6 billion rescission in highway funds set to take effect next July.

The legislative text released Monday includes about $7.3 billion in Census Bureau funding and a 3.1% pay raise for military servicemembers. The measure also prevents those automatic cuts to highway funding and extends funding for a number of expiring health care programs and the Export-Import Bank.

Full-year funding still a challenge: Appropriators had also hoped to reach a weekend deal to allocate $1.3 trillion in funding across the 12 annual spending bills, but those talks reportedly stalled out.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) and her Senate counterpart, Richard Shelby (R-AL), reportedly hope to clinch a deal on the top-line figures by Wednesday. Still, the obstacles to a full-year spending agreement are large. Lawmakers may buy themselves more time by passing a stopgap measure this week, but skepticism is reportedly growing among the rank and file on Capitol Hill that another month of negotiations will be enough to overcome fundamental differences, especially on the border wall.

“Unless something unusual happens around here, I don’t see how we get all our work done and put all the pieces together by [December] 20th,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), who heads the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee responsible for wall funding, told The Hill.

Without a deal on full-year funding, lawmakers would again need a stopgap measure to avert a Christmas shutdown.

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