Lawmakers face a midnight Friday deadline when government funding expires — the House and Senate may have to pass a short extension to avoid a shutdown this weekend, giving negotiators more time to try to secure a broader year-round financing agreement.
Another major legislative item lawmakers are trying to complete by the end of the year is the National Defense Authorization Act, a massive defense policy bill that must be passed each year. The NDAA is expected to go to a vote in the Senate this week and be approved with bipartisan support.
The House of Representatives has already approved the measure, so once the Senate votes to pass it, the bill could go to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
The looming deadline allowed lawmakers and their bipartisan staff, as well as Biden administration officials, to continue tough negotiations over the weekend to try to reach an agreement on a spending package.
“People who work on appropriations don’t have weekends at this time of year,” an administration official closely involved in the talks told CNN.
Over the weekend, both Democrats and Republicans shared their “bottom lines” with each other on various fronts, and the White House remained openly optimistic that a comprehensive agreement could be reached: “There is definitely still a road and a time deal.”
But if Biden administration officials remain focused on the ball for Congress to finally reach an agreement on a government spending deal, they’ll also genuinely recognize that lawmakers will need an extra few days—perhaps even a week—of buffer time to buy themselves Time for more stuff. This will be accomplished through a short-term stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR.
Especially with that in mind, administration officials also continue to insist that they see a government shutdown as unlikely.
Congressional aides acknowledged to CNN that talks over the weekend went better than they did a few days ago, which is why Democrats announced they won’t be rolling out their own comprehensive Democrat-only plan on Monday. By avoiding Republicans on Capitol Hill who have been interpreting the threat of Democrats to introduce their own bill as a messaging exercise that will only further divide negotiators, Republicans see a sign that Democrats are seriously trying to reach agreement.
For now, a bipartisan agreement on government funding remains elusive. Lawmakers have yet to be able to negotiate an agreement on a comprehensive year-round funding plan — known on Capitol Hill as the Omnibus Plan — and there is a dispute between the two parties over how much money should go to nondefense, domestic priorities. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters the funding gap between the two sides was about $26 billion.
Republicans have criticized Democrats for recent domestic spending and have argued that measures passed by Democrats while they controlled both chambers of Congress, such as the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill and sweeping health care and climate bills, were wasteful and will Raising inflation. Democrats have countered that the measures are necessary to help the country recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, as well as address other key priorities. Democrats say funding for the coronavirus response, health care and climate change should not mean that there should be less funding for government operations and nondefense, domestic spending next year.
The impasse over a broader funding deal could force the two sides to agree to a short-term financing extension – known as a continuing resolution, or CR – before a Friday deadline.
The key question will be how long this extension will last. The timeframe could be as short as a week, a time frame that will continue to pressure lawmakers to reach a broader agreement while still allowing more time for negotiations. Or it could extend the shutdown deadline until the next Congress, which convenes on Jan. 3, when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
A change in the House majority would dramatically change the dynamics of the negotiations and could make it harder to reach a broader financing deal. Lawmakers could pass a full-year CR if a bipartisan funding deal doesn’t appear to be possible, but leaders of both parties want to avoid that because it would keep Pentagon spending and domestic priorities in place.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the GOP’s position in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. “Our Commander-in-Chief and his party have spent enormous amounts of money on domestic priorities outside of the normal appropriations process without giving the Department of Defense a dime. Clearly we will not allow them to hijack the government’s funding process now too , and hijack our military for more liberal spending,” McConnell said.
Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a Vermont Democrat, outlined his party’s argument in his own remarks Thursday. Republicans are “demanding deep cuts to programs that the American people depend on,” Leahy said.
“These bills are designed to get us out of the pandemic, get the country healthy, get our economy back on track, and I believe they’re doing that,” Leahy said of legislation passed by Democrats that has been criticized by Republicans. goals. They do not intend to fund essential functions of the U.S. government in FY 2023.”
While lawmakers continue to negotiate, the federal government has begun preparing for a possible closure, engaging in the mandatory but standard process of issuing closure guidance to agencies ahead of Friday’s funding deadline.
Officials emphasized that a government shutdown is unlikely, but that standard procedures for halting non-essential government steps are underway.
“One week before the appropriations bill expires, regardless of imminence, OMB communicates with senior agency officials to remind agencies of their responsibility to review and update orderly closure plans, and will share a draft communication template to notify staff of the appropriations status,” said a document from the Office of Management and Budget.
The standard guidance was released on Friday, marking the first seven days that a shutdown could occur without congressional action.
Each department and agency has its own set of plans and procedures. These plans include information on how many employees will be furloughed, which employees are essential, and which employees will work without pay (e.g., air traffic controllers, Secret Service agents, CDC laboratory workers), How long it will take for the holidays to cease operations in the hours before closing, and which activities will cease.
This story has been updated with additional developments.