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With less than two weeks remaining before the federal government partially runs out of money, congressional Democrats plan to enact a stopgap spending bill while massive infrastructure and social spending bills remain on their legislative to-do list.
The federal government’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, meaning lawmakers have until the end of the month to approve funding to keep the government open. Failing to do so would lead to reduced operations, a halt on nonessential work, and furloughed federal employees amid a pandemic. The continuing resolution would fund government agencies at their current levels until later this year.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the continuing resolution would “ensure that our government can keep serving the American people without interruption.” The Maryland Democrat added the continuing resolution would also provide supplemental funding for the resettlement of Afghan refugees and natural disaster relief from recent wildfires and hurricanes.
In her own “Dear Colleague” letter on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the continuing resolution would “avoid a needless government shutdown and provide emergency funding to help those devastated by the recent natural disasters as well as help resettle our Afghan evacuees, and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”
But the effort to pass a continuing resolution could become further complicated if a debt ceiling increase is tied to that legislation, which could trigger a partisan standoff and a shutdown.
In her Sunday letter, Pelosi called for bipartisan support for raising the debt limit, noting that Democrats voted in favor of doing so three times during former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Republicans will not support efforts to raise the debt ceiling.
“The Democratic leaders have every tool and procedure they need to handle the debt limit on a partisan basis, just like they are choosing to handle everything else,” the Kentucky Republican said in remarks on the Senate floor last week.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this weekend, John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Democrats “have several options for raising the debt ceiling” and that he would prefer not to tie the two measures together.
“I personally would like to see a clean vote on a debt ceiling so that Republicans actually have to go on the record on that vote only and not mix it with a funding measure, but ultimately, the most important thing is to get both of them done,” the Kentucky Democrat said.
However, Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling may falter if Democrats fail to pass the president’s $3.5 trillion social spending package, the Build Back Better Act.
Sen. Joe Manchin, who has already objected to the price tag on that legislation, recently indicated he would like to see a vote on the bill delayed until next year, adding an additional complication to its path forward.
The last government shutdown, which began in December 2018, lasted for over a month, bleeding into the next year, marking the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
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Original Author: Kate Scanlon
Original Location: Ahead of looming shutdown, Democrats seek stopgap spending bill