A government shutdown increasingly looks inevitable as GOP opponents of a stopgap in the Senate seek to drag out the process ahead of a midnight Sunday deadline.
Opponents of the Senate stopgap, which is backed by leaders in both parties, are delaying a vote to give the House a chance to pass its own continuing resolution to fund government.
Senate conservatives want to give Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) more leverage to negotiate spending cuts and changes to immigration policy, leverage that would diminish if the Senate jams the House by moving first and passing a relatively clean stopgap.
It’s unclear if House Republicans will be able to rally around their own funding measure or if McCarthy would put the Senate bill up for a vote in the House once it passes the upper chamber.
Senators say they are being advised to expect to vote through Sunday to get the funding measure to the House.
The legislation would fund the government until Nov. 17 and provide $6.15 billion in funding for Ukraine and $6 billion for disaster relief.
“It’s hard to see that we would get everything done by Saturday night,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), adding that senators have been told to be “available” through the weekend.
“Right now we’re told if Republicans insist on delay we’ll be voting through Sunday,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.
Government funding expires once the clock strikes midnight Sunday, which means the government will be in technical default if Congress hasn’t agreed to a continuing resolution by then.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reiterated his threat Thursday that he would do everything he could to slow down passage of the funding stopgap unless Senate leaders agree to pull $6.15 billion for Ukraine out of the bill.
“To avoid a government shutdown, I will consent to an expedited vote on a clean CR without Ukraine aid on it. If leadership insists on funding another country’s government at the expense of our own government, all blame rests with their intransigence,” he posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
The Senate still needs to take at least four more votes to get its continuing resolution over to the chamber, which would require votes on Saturday and Sunday unless Paul unexpectedly relents.
The sense that a shutdown is now inevitable is spreading among House lawmakers, as well.
“Unless something dramatic happens today or tomorrow, there will likely be a couple-of-day or longer shutdown — very, very unfortunately, because it’s our responsibility to exercise and exhaust all options,” Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) said.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said the chances of avoiding a shutdown appear very slim at this point.
“Are we gonna shut down this weekend? I believe we will. And I think conventional wisdom should tell you that,” he said. “But you know, I always hold out a little bit of hope that maybe there’s some epiphany that happens and we get it done.”
A Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss internal conference deliberations said a shutdown now appears inevitable and speculated that federal workers could go without pay for at least a week or two weeks.
Senate conservatives have stayed in touch with members of the House Freedom Caucus to coordinate strategy.
A second GOP senator who requested anonymity expressed optimism that McCarthy will be able to round up enough votes for an alternative House GOP-drafted stopgap.
The House Republican resolution would set discretionary spending levels on a lower trajectory, below the $1.59 trillion top line set by McCarthy and President Biden earlier this year in a deal to raise the debt limit.
It would also include elements of the House GOP’s Secure the Border Act, which would require the Biden administration to restart construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and would require some migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims process.
A group of Republican senators are also trying to negotiate an amendment to the Senate’s continuing resolution to strengthen border security.
Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) huddled in Senate Republican Whip John Thune’s (S.D.) office Thursday night to hash out an agreement on a border security amendment.
If McCarthy rounds up enough votes to pass the House-drafted continuing resolution — an uncertain prospect given his difficulty passing spending bills in recent days — it would set up a negotiation with the Senate that could last days or weeks.
Asked if there’s enough time for the Senate and House to negotiate a compromise stopgap funding bill before the Saturday deadline, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said “no.”
“What would the Senate go for? They’d be happy with nothing. We’re gonna put something on the desk, and we’ll let them respond, see what happens,” he said.
Mychael Schnell contributed.
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