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Sept. 16 —Pressure is mounting on Republican leaders to unveil a stopgap measure to fund the federal government and begin moving it through the House and Senate before current funding expires at the end of the month.
Amid concern that delays could risk another shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set a new deadline to have a continuing resolution ready for lawmakers to review Sept. 19. An initial test vote on the CR is expected late in the day.
Action on a CR ensuring government funds through Dec. 9 is the only item standing in the way of lawmakers and their plan to head back to the campaign trail. But McConnell is said to be still likely to require most of the week to finish the CR, leaving the timing of House action still uncertain.
Passage of a stopgap to avoid a replay of the 2013 shutdown after current funds expire Sept. 30 is needed because none of the 12 regular appropriations bills to fund the government have been finalized and sent to President Barack Obama's desk.
McConnell and other lawmakers planned to use the weekend to nail down the details of a deal that also will provide $1.1 billion or more to combat the Zika virus and possibly some funds for Louisiana and other storm-ravaged states. Democrats were also arguing for aid for Flint, Mich., and funding for opioid abuse programs.
But both sides said time is increasingly short. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House has actually only eight legislative days after it returns the evening of Sept. 20, with only five of those being full work days.
“The CR, hopefully, will be a document on which we have consensus on all its parts,” Hoyer said.
McConnell had planned to have the Senate sign off on the CR by Sept. 16 and then leave town until after the elections. After that, Republicans' plans called for the House to consider the CR as its last item of business. But those plans ran aground amid tough negotiations with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats Republican leaders are counting on to help deliver votes for the package (See previous story, 09/16/16).
McConnell switched a vote on whether to move on to the vehicle (H.R. 5325) for the CR from Sept. 15 to the evening of Sept. 19 to buy more time for the talks.
“We're continuing to negotiate text for the short-term CR, the Zika bill, and moving the vote until Monday night will allow us to move forward next week,” McConnell said as senators left without taking up the matter.
While lawmakers already agreed that the CR will extend at mostly current rates funding for most federal agencies and programs, negotiations were continuing over whether it will carry the $1.1 billion the Senate earlier approved to combat Zika or more of the $1.9 billion Obama requested on an “emergency” basis. Democrats also were fighting Republicans' insistence that Planned Parenthood affiliates won't receive any of the Zika monies.
The White House also made a late appeal to add in money to help Louisiana recover from flooding and also asked for aid for Flint to address drinking water contamination.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that she and other Democrats want the Flint money in the CR but acknowledged time is tight.
“[W]e should act quickly to remove all doubts that we will meet our deadline of September 30th,” Pelosi said.
Democrats' demands, however, aren't the only matters holding up the CR. In the Senate, debate could be prolonged if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) doesn't win the ban he wants to prevent the White House from transferring control over internet naming protocols.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), meanwhile, has urged conservatives to vote against the measure if it emerges from talks with language the White House wants to alter the Export-Import Bank's quorum requirements. Changing them is seen as making it easier for the bank to issue loans.
A coalition of Koch brothers-financed conservative groups wrote McConnell and Ryan Sept. 16 to voice opposition to the proposal.
“Attaching this quorum change to a [CR] is the latest in a line of efforts that subvert congressional processes. This provision would subvert the Senate approval process for board members of the Export-Import Bank and set a concerning precedent for future accountability,” said Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, and other conservative groups.
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