Congress to Pass One-Week Stopgap to Avert Shutdown

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, speak with reporters on Capitol Hill last month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Congress is expected to pass a bill Wednesday to continue funding the government for another week as lawmakers hammer out a long-term spending package.

The bill, known on Capitol Hill as a continuing resolution, is joint legislation approved in both chambers to extend the budget for federal agencies at current funding levels. The one introduced Tuesday extends the deadline for lawmakers to reach consensus on a full budget deal to Dec. 18. Otherwise, funding is set to run dry on Friday.  

Congressman Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, released the bill’s boilerplate text Tuesday. It is expected to receive a floor vote on Wednesday.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell alluded to a full funding bill taking shape for a vote in both chambers in the coming week. Lawmakers will continue working on drafting the budget next week, the Kentucky Republican said.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Monday that Democrats on the committee has been ready to vote on and pass a full government spending bill since June. Without one, the problems American families are facing from the coronavirus pandemic will be further exacerbated, he said.

“We could have done it back then,” Leahy said. “Now, the deadline’s this week, months later and we have to pass these bills before Congress adjourns this year so there’s no disruption in our government services during this difficult time in our country.”

The stopgap measure is the second Congress has drafted this year, after passing a continuing resolution in September to kick its funding deadline to this Friday.

Senators were more focused Tuesday on passing an additional round of Covid-19 relief legislation, as daily infections due to the novel coronavirus top records in the U.S. — with more than 180,000 new infections recorded Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said both parties need to sit down and compromise on bills to help Americans. But Republicans, specifically McConnell, have forgotten about that aspect of legislating, he said.

“Amazingly, it’s been over eight months since Congress came together to pass the CARES Act and the leader’s position has not budged,” Schumer said. “The majority leader continues to insist that the Senate accept one of his partisan Republican proposals, each one of which has been sorely inadequate and each of which has contained poison pills designed to ensure the bill’s failure.”

Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, said the issue on most of his constituents’ minds is Covid-19 relief and whether they will get more help. He also noted the Senate has other lingering business to take care of before the holiday recess.   

“There are things that we need to do in the next 10 days here,” Lankford said. “I’m having conversations in private and like this in public to say, ‘let’s get it done, lets finish the task that we need to get done.’”

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