Congress Ready to Punt Spending Fight for Two Weeks

Fight over border wall funding on hold as nation mourns 41st president

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., says the new funding deadline “raises the stakes” for negotiators working on the seven remaining spending bills. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers plan to send a two-week extension of interim government funding to President Donald Trump this week, putting their fight over border wall funding on hold to mourn the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

The bill released Monday would push the deadline by which Congress needs to pass a spending package for the remaining 25 percent of this year’s agency budgets from Dec. 7 to Dec. 21 and would provide a temporary extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until the same date. It would also continue an extension for the Violence Against Women Act, which was extended through Dec. 7 in the current stopgap spending law. (Roll Call incorrectly reported in an earlier story that the VAWA extension was not included in the stopgap spending bill.)

While Democrats would have preferred a one-week bill, they will not object to approving the two-week stopgap, according to a Democratic aide.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said Monday that the new funding deadline has “raised the stakes” for negotiators working on the seven remaining spending bills.

“Obviously, we are working toward an impasse. We’ve got until the 21st, so that makes the stakes a little higher,” the Alabama Republican said. “It could make us all come together or it could drive us further apart — we don’t know yet.”

Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito said that having the new funding deadline just days before Christmas could increase pressure on lawmakers to come to an agreement.

“Christmas always puts pressure on everything, but we’re already in a pressurized situation,” the West Virginia Republican said.

Trump said he’s likely to sign the short-term CR into law, which would prevent a partial shutdown of operations at the nine Cabinet departments and dozens of smaller agencies still without full-year appropriations.

“If [lawmakers] come, which they have, to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday night. Bush, the nation’s 41st president, died Friday at the age of 94.

Because the House has canceled votes for the week due to memorial services for Bush, lawmakers in that chamber will need unanimous consent to pass the bill, meaning no objections from individual members. No announcement has yet been made about the process in the Senate, though that chamber as of midafternoon Monday was slated to be in session for votes starting midday Wednesday.

Trump had been expected to meet Tuesday with the two top Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York — to discuss how to resolve the remaining sticking points on appropriations, according to sources familiar with the talks. But that meeting has been postponed until next week, according to a Democratic aide.

Five fiscal 2019 spending bills have already been enacted. Trump signed one package covering the Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA and Legislation Branch measures and another containing the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education measures, as well as the current stopgap bill, before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. Those bills comprise three-quarters of this year’s discretionary spending allotted under a February law raising budget caps.

Niels Lesniewski and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.Watch: Human Podiums, Lead Trombone and Howling on the House Floor — Congressional Hits and Misses

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