In an abrupt strategy shift, Senate leaders are now actively considering a stopgap funding measure that runs through Jan. 19 and leaves out emergency spending for wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The tentative plan hasn’t been finalized and could end up with a number of variations. Bipartisan negotiations were ongoing Friday despite the Veterans Day holiday. “Nothing has been decided,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
The new potential strategy, if it holds, appears to acknowledge how far apart — and far behind — the two chambers are on final fiscal 2024 appropriations. It would also avoid what House Republicans have characterized as Senate attempts to “jam” them against a Christmas deadline with a massive omnibus package.
The still-emerging framework also acknowledges that senators aren’t yet close enough to a deal on a border security and immigration package that would unlock President Joe Biden’s request for Ukraine aid in time to attach it to the new continuing resolution. The current CR expires after Nov. 17, and a partial government shutdown would begin without a new temporary spending law to replace it.
The White House wants $106 billion for a national security supplemental, including for Israel, the Indo-Pacific region and the southern border as well as Ukraine, but Senate Republicans won’t agree to more money for Ukraine without doing more to secure the U.S. border. And attaching funding for Israel to the stopgap bill only would remove some of the political pressure to also pass Ukraine aid.
Previously, senators had been mulling a Dec. 8 end date for the CR to keep the pressure on to finish full-year spending bills, along with attaching as much of Biden’s supplemental request as possible.
Even with stopgap funding that runs through mid-January, sources said the Senate would revisit the security supplemental after Thanksgiving. At that time pieces of Biden’s separate $56 billion domestic emergency funding request could also be considered, including disaster aid and child care subsidies.
The Senate also would continue to work on the regular full-year appropriations bills after Thanksgiving, including possibly a package wrapping together the nine remaining bills that chamber hasn’t yet passed.
The emerging Senate stopgap bill wouldn’t be totally “clean.” It would likely carry several extensions of expiring authorizing measures, sources said, including the farm bill, flood insurance, a health care package and Sec. 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It could also contain one small piece of the president’s supplemental request: money to boost pay for wildland firefighters.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the legislative vehicle for the stopgap measure. A vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday; if cloture is invoked, Schumer could unveil a substitute amendment containing the CR text, if it’s ready by then.
The race is on
Still, it could take several days for the Senate to jump through procedural hoops and pass the bill, leaving federal agencies bumping up against a shutdown that would start to be felt when the new workweek begins Nov. 20, a few days before Thanksgiving.
It’s becoming a bit of a race to see which chamber can act first, as Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is expected to post text of the House’s version of the stopgap bill on Saturday afternoon so members can have 72 hours to review it before a vote as early as Tuesday.
Johnson was weighing a few different options, including a CR running to Jan. 19 with Israel aid attached — and without the offset he included in an earlier Israel supplemental, rescinding IRS funds. A relatively “clean” bill like that could attract Democratic support potentially, but could cost Johnson votes on his own side of the aisle.
Another option Johnson has been looking at is a “laddered” approach that would extend stopgap financing for some federal agencies until Jan. 19, but kick the remainder into February.
The Republican Conference is scheduled to have a conference call at 3 p.m. Saturday to discuss the legislation.
With both chambers seemingly in agreement that final appropriations won’t be finished this calendar year, there’s still a host of legislation considered “must-pass” that lawmakers will be working on post-Thanksgiving.
The Senate’s CR vehicle won’t contain an extension of Federal Aviation Administration spending and revenue collection authority, since it’s not a tax bill and thus would be subject to a potential “blue slip” in the House. The FAA’s current authorization runs out Dec. 31, so lawmakers would still need to pass another extension if they can’t agree to a multiyear reauthorization.
There’s also the annual defense policy bill, which has become law for 62 consecutive years. And Senate Democrats still want to process more of Biden’s nominees, as nominees that aren’t confirmed by the end of the session need to be returned to the White House and resubmitted next year to start the process over again.
This report first appeared on CQ.com.