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 in 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.
“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 that there appeared to be little standing in the way of a vote later Wednesday.
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 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.
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 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.”
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.
Associated Press reporter Mary Claire Jalonick contributed to this report.
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