WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress could vote as early as Wednesday to continue funding the federal government, according to congressional aides, avoiding what would be a politically embarrassing partial shutdown.
Negotiators were working out how long to extend government funding, with sources saying the target ranged from mid-January to as late as February. Congress needs to buy time to tackle another looming crisis – the risk of the federal government defaulting on its $28.9 trillion debt if lawmakers do not extend it.
The House of Representatives and Senate have until midnight on Friday to renew temporary legislation maintaining government operations, ranging from national parks and air traffic control to military pay and medical research.
“After the House takes action this week, the Democratic-led Senate will move forward to make sure the government remains funded after the deadline,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech. “With so many critical issues, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown.”
Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters the funding measure could have a “January-February timeline” but said there was “no consensus” yet among appropriators.
If passed this week, the second extension would give Democrats and Republicans more time to resolve their differences over the 12 regular, annual appropriations bills that finance “discretionary” federal programs for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
Those bills could total around $1.5 trillion and do not include funding for mandatory programs, such as the Social Security retirement plan, that automatically renew.
Congress’ failure to complete any of those bills has necessitated the temporary funding legislation.
One of the congressional aides said the new bill would include emergency funding to help resettle Afghan refugees following the August withdrawal of U.S. troops after nearly 20 years of combat operations there.
Thune also said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Schumer were expected to continue negotiations aimed at brokering an agreement to address the government’s borrowing limit by Dec. 15 https://www.reuters.com/business/us-treasurys-yellen-extends-debt-limit-default-deadline-dec-15-2021-11-16, when the Treasury has warned it could exhaust its options for avoiding default.
Republicans want Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own using a cumbersome “reconciliation” process that allows legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority. Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat, said he understood Republicans were willing to do a “quick” reconciliation bill for the debt ceiling.
But Thune told reporters the Senate parliamentarian may first have to weigh in on certain options for using reconciliation. “There are some ambiguities because it hasn’t been used that often,” Thune said.
Democrats are pushing to address the borrowing limit through regular order instead of reconciliation. But regular order would require Republicans to refrain from using procedural hurdles to block the effort.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and David Morgan;Editing by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Karishma Singh)