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Schumer starts process for taking up stopgap funding bill

House ready to move quickly, but what the Senate produces remains the big question

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is seen during a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is seen during a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer took the first preliminary step Thursday toward considering stopgap funding legislation needed by the end of next week to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Schumer teed up a legislative vehicle to swap in the contents of a stopgap bill that’s still being worked on, filing cloture on a motion to proceed to unrelated House-passed legislation to cap monthly insulin copays.

The House is ready to move straight to stopgap funding bill consideration next week under “same-day rule” authority once it comes over from the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Pelosi told reporters the current plan is for the Senate to vote on cloture Tuesday night “after sundown,” given the Rosh Hashana holiday. 

Congressional leaders and appropriators are expected to spend the weekend haggling over the last details of the text Schumer is aiming to unveil Tuesday, which he would offer as a substitute amendment.

On Thursday, authorizing committees agreed on a five-year reauthorization of FDA user fee programs, which could potentially be attached to the continuing resolution. Numerous other authorizations, funding “anomalies” and a supplemental aid package for Ukraine and other purposes were still being negotiated. 

Senate Democrats plan to attach energy infrastructure permit streamlining legislation authored by Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., which got a boost when Manchin’s home-state colleague, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, endorsed it Thursday.

But the measure still faces an uphill climb to 60 votes, other Republicans said, with little additional support on their side and the Democratic caucus also facing divisions on the matter.

“I’d be surprised if it gets 60 votes. I’d be surprised if it gets all the Democrats,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Thursday, of Manchin’s bill.  

Schumer could change his vote to “no” on cloture, giving him the opportunity to bring a different version up quickly, without the permitting language.

Alternatively, the House could just generate a fresh CR and send that to the Senate, also presumably without the permitting measure. Pelosi suggested that was an option if the Senate can’t cross the 60-vote cloture threshold on Tuesday.

“We are prepared to take it up,” she said. “We have same-day authority already built in so we don’t have to delay it in any way for procedural purposes, and hopefully that will happen on Tuesday night. … If they don’t, we’ll have to start it over here.”

Pelosi also suggested more tweaks could be made before the stopgap bill passes the Senate. Language in Manchin’s bill that would greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline, for instance, has run into opposition from Virginia Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

“We’ll have to see how it comes back from the Senate and there may be room for negotiation,” Pelosi said.

Using the House-passed insulin bill as the shell carries certain procedural risks, namely the prospect of up to three cloture votes, with up to 30 hours of debate between each. Several GOP senators who oppose extending the CR through Dec. 16, as Democratic leaders are currently planning, haven’t said whether they’ll allow unanimous consent to speed up the clock.

If there are delays reaching agreement on the underlying text, the Senate process bogs down, or both, one option may be a very short-term stopgap measure. Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., suggested it was possible lawmakers could need a two- or three-day CR, though other lawmakers and aides downplayed that prospect.

Longstanding guidance from the White House budget office stipulates that if passage of stopgap legislation isn’t in doubt but simply has additional procedural hoops to jump through, federal agencies get a one-day grace period before needing to wind down operations.

Realistically, a shutdown beginning Sunday would not cause major impacts, though that could change if employees are instructed not to report to work on Monday, Oct. 3.