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Congress struggles to clinch funding deal as Tories push to torpedo it

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and the White House are struggling to reach an agreement on a massive government funding package, warning they will almost certainly have to adopt a short-term measure to avoid a shutdown at the end of the week.

Lawmakers had hoped to wrap up their work in the lame duck session by Friday, but now plan to stay until Christmas weekend. Some say they may have to return to Washington the following week as well, jeopardizing family vacations and official trips by congressional delegations abroad.

The fate of the bill is also tied to an election overhaul measure to avoid another Jan. 6, which Senate leaders hope to tie into it. Congress must finance the government before Saturday to avoid a shutdown.

“We haven’t reached an agreement, we’re not close to an agreement, but the circumstances are there … that we could reach one,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Vice Chairman of the Credits Committee, at NBC. New. “Now, will it be before the 23rd?” I do not know. Time compresses the calendar.

Democrats and Republicans have still not agreed on core spending numbers for an “omnibus” package that will fund the federal government through the fiscal year that ends in September 2023; without those numbers, the owners can’t finalize the details.

The two sides are parting about $26 billion in domestic spending, Shelby said, which isn’t a lot considering the omnibus package would likely be worth more than $1.5 trillion. Democrats want parity between domestic and defense spending, but Shelby and other Republicans are pushing to cut the domestic number because of the billions in new spending Democrats have passed this Congress in their relief and defense programs. inflation.

“The problem is that the Democrats got a lot of money, non-defense stuff, through reconciliation, billions and billions,” said Shelby, who spoke with President Joe Biden last week at the White House. “And now they say they want parity. Well, it’s not parity. We want them back where we can have a deal.

Amid the impasse, Senate Democrats plan on Monday to unveil their own fiscal year funding bill in an attempt to end the impasse. Although they control both houses, they still need at least 10 Senate GOP votes to defeat a filibuster on a funding bill.

“Although Republicans are not participating, it is designed to attract Republican support and be a balanced proposal,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who leads an appropriations subcommittee. “It’s not designed to be some kind of trap. … It’s not going to end up being a wish list of Democratic priorities.

Schatz said he would prefer Congress pass a three-day funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the pressure on lawmakers. But it’s more likely that a week-long RC will be needed to give executives more time to hammer out a deal.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., appearing frustrated with the pace of the talks, said Thursday it was “very, very difficult to move forward,” despite her party’s best efforts. to address GOP concerns. “When you negotiate, you have to have a partner to negotiate,” she said.

Complicating internal GOP politics is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is courting right-wing votes in his quest to become president and pressuring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to walk away from the table until the new Congress in January, when Republicans take control of the House and wield greater bargaining power.

“We are 28 days away from Republicans having the hammer. We would be stronger in every negotiation,” McCarthy said in a Dec. 5 interview on Fox News. “Wait until we’re in charge.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leaves the Capitol rotunda
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday.Alex Brandon/AP

Democratic spoilers have called this scenario a failure.

“It would be disastrous. The president has already indicated that is not an option, so Democrats will deliver. We work hard day and night,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the State Department and embassies.

The government funding bill is likely the last train to leave the station during the current session of Congress, and a number of other provisions could follow. Chief among them is a major overhaul of election laws, designed to prevent another Jan. 6 by making it harder for losing presidential candidates to claim victory. Senators reached agreement on a bill that authorized the committee in a 14-to-1 bipartisan vote in September.

When asked if the election bill would get a vote in the Senate this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said, “The first job is to get an omnibus.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the rules committee that helped shape the bill, said Senate leaders are considering tying it to the government funding bill, calling it a “most obvious” vehicle given the time it takes to pass stand-alone legislation. in the bedroom. But she insisted it would go both ways.

“We’ll get there by the end of the year if I have to slow down everything else,” Klobuchar said in an interview. “It will happen.”

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