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With Shutdown Deadline Looming, Funding Bill Bogs Down

·4 min read
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

Once again, the threat of a government shutdown looms at the end of the fiscal year, which arrives on September 30. Lawmakers have two weeks to provide funding to keep large swaths of the federal government open and functioning, and the most likely result at this point is a short-term bill called a continuing resolution that funds the government for about 10 weeks, or until mid-December. Lawmakers would then look to pass an omnibus spending package to cover the rest of the 2023 fiscal year.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently said that he would work with Republicans to “avoid even a hint of a shutdown,” numerous unsettled issues remain.

What will get bundled with a CR? The first set of questions revolves around the other items that could be included in the funding bill. According to Chris Krueger of Cowen Washington Research Group, there are five additional items in play that could be packaged with the continuing resolution:

* Changes in the way energy projects are permitted, supported by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV);

* A revision of the way electoral votes are counted;

* A reauthorization of the user fee system that partially funds the FDA;

* Another $13.7 billion in aid for Ukraine;

* $22 billion for Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Not all of the items are expected to make it into the final bill. Republicans remain opposed to providing more funding for Covid-19 preparedness, which could be dropped. And the fate of the energy project permitting reform bill is uncertain, with dozens of House Democrats vowing to oppose it for being too generous to the fossil fuel industry. On Friday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said he, too, is opposed to the bill, joining Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the upper chamber.

“As a way forward is discussed, and especially as new anti-environment proposals are being brought to the permitting discussions, we should not attach the permitting overhaul package to the must-pass government funding legislation,” Markey said in a statement.

If Markey and Sanders stick to their guns and the permitting bill remains in the funding package, the continuing resolution would need 12 Republican votes to meet the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. But Republicans are having their own issues with the package — not least a strong desire to avoid helping Democrats pass any of their agenda items.

Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak reports that a group of House Republicans affiliated with former president Donald Trump, along with a handful of Senate Republicans, are pushing back against the idea of a short-term funding bill. Betting that Republicans will gain control of the House in the midterm election, they want the continuing resolution to run into early next year so that the new Congress can put its stamp on the final 2023 omnibus spending bill when it is seated in January.

“Voters will have fired Speaker Pelosi, but she will still decide all government funding for” fiscal 2023, Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said last week.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida is one of the Republicans pushing for a “clean” funding bill. “If there are important issues, don’t just throw it on a CR and give it to us in the last hour,” Scott told Roll Call. “Let’s vote on those. Let’s start acting like legislators.”

Trump has jumped into the fray, as well. “Finally, some Republicans with great Courage!” Trump said. “Rick Scott, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are working hard to stop Chuck Schumer and his favorite Senator Mitch McConnell from ramming through a disastrous” short-term bill.

In a separate statement, Trump took direct aim at McConnell, who he has clashed with in the past. “The Republican Senate must do something about this absolute Loser, Mitch McConnell, who folds every time against the Democrats — and he’s only getting worse!”

The bottom line: At this point, nobody wants to cause another government shutdown, but internal divisions among Republicans over strategy could create some sparks as lawmakers hammer out a continuing resolution ahead of a month-end deadline. And the clash between a Trump-backed faction and the more establishment wing of the Republican Party led by McConnell could give us a glimpse of conflicts to come.

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