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House Democrats Prepare for Pre-Christmas Funding Crunch: Reports

Yuval Rosenberg

When they return from their August recess on September 9, lawmakers will have little time to finalize appropriations bills needed to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Faced with the prospect of another government shutdown, House Democratic leaders are reportedly preparing a short-term extension of federal funding to keep the lights on until late November or early December.

The Democratic-led House has passed 10 of the 12 required spending measures for fiscal 2020, but the budget deal reached by lawmakers last month will require adjustments to the funding levels in those bills since it provides about $15 billion less for non-defense programs and about $5 billion more for the Pentagon than Democrats had allocated, according to Politico. The Republican-controlled Senate, meanwhile, has yet to take up any 2020 funding bills after leaders in that chamber decided to wait for the Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hammer out their two-year budget deal.

“Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby has set a goal of enacting the two largest spending bills before the Sept. 30 deadline, taking care of funding for the departments of Defense, Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services,” Politico’s Jennifer Scholtes reports. “The Alabama Republican has even floated the idea of coupling those two measures with the bill that funds the Department of Energy and water programs, arguing that there is a ‘nuclear nexus’ between programs in the energy legislation and the defense bill.”

Those three spending bills account for a majority of federal spending, but the House and Senate packages will need to be reconciled, and Shelby’s plan to have his committee start marking up its spending measures on September 12 means there will be relatively little time before the end of the fiscal year for such negotiations.

As a result, Democrats reportedly expect that a stopgap spending bill will likely be needed. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly told House Democrats on a conference call last week that such a measure should extend funding through November 22, while other Democrats have reportedly predicted that the extension would run through December 6. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the year six days later.

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