Congress Seeks to Pass Stopgap Funding Bill Ahead of Shutdown Deadline

A man walks near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday. (REUTERS/Nathan Howard)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress on Wednesday has three days to avert a partial government shutdown, as disagreements between the two parties and within the fractious House Republican majority delay lawmakers in their duty of funding federal agencies.

The two chambers’ top Democrats and Republicans had emerged from what they described as an intense Tuesday meeting with President Joe Biden vowing to avert a shutdown, but without agreement on how to do so – whether by reaching a deal covering the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, or by passing a fourth short-term stopgap.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives’ speaker, Republican Mike Johnson, have traded blame despite an agreement reached last month on $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending for the fiscal year.

“We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown. And that’s our first responsibility,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday.

Hardliners within his thin Republican majority have sought spending cuts and policy changes, including some related to food aid, on the funding bills, which Democrats have balked at. Failure to reach an agreement will trigger a partial government shutdown beginning Saturday.

A second deadline on a larger group of federal agencies that would run out of funding on March 8 also looms.

Schumer told reporters on Tuesday lawmakers had made progress on talks to fund the government but had not finalized anything yet.

“There is no reason for a shutdown, not if both sides in both chambers cooperate in a bipartisan way,” Patty Murray, the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on Tuesday.

The impasse comes as the current national debt stands at $34.3 trillion and is rapidly rising. Rating agency Moody’s said in September a government shutdown would hurt the country’s credit rating.

In addition to the government funding bills, Congress is also struggling to pass a $95 billion national security funding bill, including new aid for Ukraine and Israel, that Biden has urged. The Senate passed a bill, but it has been held up in the House.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!