With funding for the government set to run out Sep. 30, congressional Republicans have an overriding concern – to avoid a government shutdown, for which they often have been blamed in the past.
And with the presidential election a little more than a month after that date, and control of the Senate hanging in the balance, the stakes for Republicans are especially high.
In remarks from the Senate floor Monday morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed optimistic a shutdown would be avoided. “We’ve made a lot of important progress, already,” he said. “I expect to move forward this week on a continuing resolution through December 9th, at last year’s enacted levels and include funds for Zika control and for our veterans.”
House Republicans also expressed hope for some kind of stop-gap funding bill, but that was made a bit dicier due to resistance from the House’s conservative wing. “We all yell at each other a little but we all like each other,” said Dave Brat, R-VA, of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus.
That remark was a reference to Speaker Paul Ryan’s closed door meeting with GOP members on Friday in which he laid out the likely options to fund the government: a 3-month omnibus spending bill that would provide funding through December, or a 6-month omnibus that would carry funding through the lame duck session, or a series of “minibuses,” in which the omnibus is broken into what Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers called ” bite-sized appropriations.”
“I want to see us go to the middle of December to give us a chance to try to put together passable minibuses to try to enact as many of the appropriations bills that we could run through the committee as possible,” Rogers told Fox News.
The minibuses might also help to appease House conservatives who fear what Democrats could do in a lame duck session, should their party win the White House or wrest control of the Senate away from Republicans. “We don’t know what’s coming at us in the lame duck, and that’s why we don’t want to do a short term CR, because no one knows what’s coming,” Brat said.
Late Monday, the leadership of both houses – McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – met with President Obama at the White House in an attempt to resolve the spending issues. The President also sounded an optimistic note. “My hope is by the time Congress adjourns before the election that we will have agreement in place to fund the government and that our Zika funding will be taken care of,” he said.
Also still unresolved is the Saudi Arabia terrorism lawsuit bill the House passed Friday.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said for the first time that Obama will veto the bill as presently written.
Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway.