Congress Eyes a One-Week Spending Bill to Avert Shutdown

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U.S. lawmakers are tentatively planning to introduce a one-week stopgap spending bill in order to avert a government shutdown after the current temporary funding measure expires on Dec. 11, according to people familiar with the plan.

The bill would keep the government open through Dec. 18 as lawmakers continue work on a giant $1.4 trillion full-year spending bill to complete appropriations for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Congressional Republicans and Democrats both aim to attach a Covid-19 relief package to that 12-part omnibus spending bill.

The spending legislation faces several obstacles to completion, including President Donald Trump’s demand for border-wall financing and a dispute over whether $12.5 billion in Veterans Affairs health funding should be allowed as an emergency above the budget cap.

The giant omnibus was also plagued in recent days by as many as 300 minor policy disputes, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby. Among these have been federal protections for the sage grouse, policy on biomass energy and funding for police anti-racism training.

The Covid-19 relief package also faces challenges -- especially on state and local government aid and provisions related to shielding businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

House Plans

One person familiar with the discussions said the stopgap idea is fluid, and could change if more progress is made on the spending bill in coming days.

A stopgap would especially disappoint House leaders, who said they have been pushing to wrap up work by Dec. 11 in order to give lawmakers time to undergo any necessary Covid- quarantine before Christmas. The Senate had already been planning to be in Washington until Dec. 18.

“I am frustrated that the sense of urgency that we ought to maintain is not there,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in an interview Friday morning.

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