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With Shutdown Deadline Approaching, Congress Has Lots of Budget Work to Do

Yuval Rosenberg

The Senate’s sprint to the end of September will start next week. When lawmakers return from their recess, they’ll have a long to-do list, and relatively little time to deal with some key items — including avoiding another government shutdown.

On the fiscal front, the Senate Appropriations Committee reportedly hopes to mark up all 12 of the required annual spending bills this month. Senate appropriators are set to vote Thursday on four of the 12 bills, according to a schedule released by Senator Richard Shelby, the committee chair. Those four bills — Defense; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; Energy and Water; and State and Foreign Operations — cover a large majority of federal discretionary spending.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will also vote on top-line spending numbers for the 12 funding bills. 

But with the new fiscal year starting October 1, the Senate is unlikely to have enough time for its spending bills to be passed and reconciled with versions approved by the House, meaning that lawmakers will have to pass a stopgap spending bill to prevent another government shutdown and buy more time to hash out full-year funding agreements between the two chambers.

Senate appropriators are aiming to get at least one major package of funding bills ready for the president’s signature before the new fiscal year, limiting how much of the government has to be covered by a stopgap measure, according to The Hill.

The House, meanwhile, will vote the week of September 16 on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded into the new fiscal year that begins October 1, according to a letter released by Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer cited by Roll Call.

The House has approved 10 of the 12 required annual spending measures, but those bills will need to be reconciled with the Senate versions and adjusted to fall in line with the two-year budget deal agreed to by Congress and President Trump before the August recess.

The House’s short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), will likely extend funding until late November, potentially setting up a pre-Thanksgiving deadline of November 21 for lawmakers to pass full-year spending bills needed to avoid another government shutdown. It’s not yet clear whether the Republican-led Senate and the White House will agree to the House bill’s timeframe or press for a December deadline, according to Roll Call. 

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