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Senate looks to speed ahead on funding bill to avert shutdown

The Senate was pushing toward a swift vote Wednesday on a temporary government funding package as lawmakers sought to keep the holiday season free from any suspense over a government shutdown.

Quick Read

  • Senate Vote on Funding Package: The Senate aims for a swift vote on a temporary government funding bill, following its passage in the House, to avoid a government shutdown. The bill extends current funding levels while long-term negotiations continue.
  • Bipartisan Support: Both Senate Republicans and Democrats appear ready to pass the funding patch, averting a shutdown before the Saturday deadline.
  • Bill Details: The package splits funding deadlines into two dates: January 19 for some agencies and February 2 for others, potentially risking partial shutdowns. It excludes the White House’s $106 billion aid request for Israel, Ukraine, and others.
  • Leadership Stance: Senate Majority Leader Schumer supports the bill despite its imperfections, while House Speaker Johnson vows not to support further stopgap measures, aiming for deeper cuts next year.
  • Conservative Pushback: Hardline conservatives challenge Johnson’s plan, demanding steep cuts and policy changes.
  • Congressional Challenges: The House’s inability to unite on funding legislation could weaken its negotiating power with the Senate. Republicans call for separate appropriations bills and border policy changes alongside Ukraine aid.
  • Border Crisis Focus: Senate Republicans prioritize border policy, suggesting tying Ukraine funding levels to U.S. border control improvements. This stance could delay Ukraine aid.
  • Funding for Ukraine: National Security Council spokesperson Kirby warns of diminishing funds for Ukraine, impacting its defense capabilities.
  • Call for Compromise: Schumer emphasizes the need for bipartisan compromise to advance both funding and border legislation.

The Associated Press has the story:

Senate looks to speed ahead on funding bill to avert shutdown

Newslooks- WASHINGTON (AP)

The Senate was pushing toward a swift vote Wednesday on a temporary government funding package as lawmakers sought to keep the holiday season free from any suspense over a government shutdown.

Senators were trying to speed forward on the funding package one day after it passed the House on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Passage would push a final confrontation on the government budget into the new year, when the House and Senate will be forced to confront — and somehow overcome — their considerable differences over what funding levels should be.

In the meantime, both top Republicans and Democrats in the Senate appeared ready to avert a shutdown and pass the temporary funding patch well before government funding expires Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of D-N.Y., speaks to reporters following a closed-door caucus meeting about preventing a government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

“No drama, no delay, no government shutdown. That’s our goal,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech Wednesday morning.

Senators were still negotiating how the bill could advance through the chamber, but Republican Whip John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, told reporters there appeared to be little standing in the way of a vote later Wednesday.

“Everybody is really kind of ready to vote and fight another day,” he said.

The spending package would keep government funding at current levels for roughly two more months while a long-term package is negotiated. It splits the deadlines for passing full-year appropriations bills into two dates: Jan. 19 for some federal agencies and Feb. 2 for others, creating two deadlines where there will be a risk of a partial government shutdown.

The spending bill does not include the White House’s nearly $106 billion request for wartime aid for Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian funding for Palestinians and other supplemental requests. Lawmakers are likely to turn their attention more fully to that request after the Thanksgiving holiday in hopes of negotiating a deal.

Schumer called the stopgap funding plan “far from perfect,” but said he would support it because it averts a shutdown and “will do so without any of the cruel cuts or poison pills” that hardline conservatives wanted.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks with reporters ahead of the debate and vote on supplemental aid to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who crafted the plan, has vowed that he will not support any further stopgap funding measures, known as continuing resolutions. He portrayed the temporary funding bill as setting the ground for a spending “fight” with the Senate next year.

The new speaker, who told reporters this week that he counted himself among the “arch-conservatives” of the House, is pushing for deeper spending cuts. He wanted to avoid lawmakers being forced to consider a massive government funding package before the December holidays — a tactic that incenses conservatives in particular.

But Johnson is also facing pushback from other hardline conservatives who wanted to leverage the prospect of a government shutdown to extract steep cuts and policy demands.

Many of those conservatives were among a group of 19 Republicans who defied Johnson Wednesday to prevent floor consideration of an appropriations bill to fund several government agencies.

GOP leaders called off the week’s work after the vote, sending lawmakers home early for Thanksgiving. It capped a period of intense bickering among lawmakers.

“This place is a pressure cooker,” Johnson said Tuesday, noting that the House had been in Washington for 10 weeks straight.

The House GOP’s inability to present a united front on funding legislation could undercut the Louisiana congressman’s ability to negotiate spending bills with the Senate.

Republicans are demanding that Congress work out government funding through 12 separate bills, as the budgetary process requires, but House leadership has so far been forced to pull two of those bills from the floor, seen another rejected on a procedural vote and struggled to win support for others.

When it returns in two weeks, Congress is expected to focus on the Biden administration’s requests for Ukraine and Israel funding. Republican senators have demanded that Congress pass immigration and border legislation alongside additional Ukraine aid, but a bipartisan Senate group working on a possible compromise has struggled to find consensus.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at his office in the Capitol, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a floor speech pledged that Republicans would continue to push for policy changes on the U.S. border with Mexico, saying it is “impossible to ignore the crisis at our southern border that’s erupted on Washington Democrats’ watch.”

One idea floating among Republicans is directly tying Ukraine funding levels with decreases in the number of illegal border crossings. It showed how even longtime supporters of Ukraine’s defense against Russia are willing to hold up the funding to force Congress to tackle an issue that has flummoxed generations of lawmakers: U.S. border policy.

Most Senate Republicans support the Ukraine funding, said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., but he added, “It is secondary to securing our own border.”

But the U.S. is already trimming some of the wartime aid packages it is sending Ukraine as funds run low, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said from San Francisco, where he accompanied President Joe Biden for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

He said the pot of money available for Ukraine is “withering away, and with it will be a deleterious effect on Ukraine’s ability to continue to defend itself.”

Schumer said the Senate would try to move forward on both the funding and border legislation in the coming weeks, but warned it would require a compromise.

“Both sides will have to give,” he said.

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