December is shaping up to be a busy month for the Senate, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intent on addressing six bills over the next three weeks, including a massive biomedical research package and the annual defense policy bill.
“I would encourage colleagues on both sides to continue working together so that we can complete our work soon,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
The Senate is scheduled to be in session until Dec. 16, but lawmakers also face a Dec. 9 deadline to renew a spending measure to keep government agencies funded. McConnell said senators would work to pass a continuing resolution, or stopgap funding bill, to push funding decisions into the next year. President-elect Donald Trump’s team has indicated to Republicans that they would prefer a continuing resolution into March, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has endorsed the idea.
There were no bipartisan Senate talks underway on how to fund the government past Dec. 9 as of Monday afternoon, according to the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland said Democrats were waiting to hear from Republicans about the CR and “what they want to do and when they want to do it.”
“Negotiations have stopped and we’re awaiting what they want to do, so we can then properly respond,” Mikulski said. “They’re talking among themselves right now.”
Mikulski, who is retiring next month, said that Democrats wanted to operate within their longstanding parameters for negotiating spending bills, including the exclusion of “poison pill riders.”
“What are the potholes? We’re not quite sure,” she told reporters. “Some of them are potholes. Some of them could lead to derailment.”
Aside from funding the government, McConnell plans to take up the House-passed extension of the Iran Sanctions Act and the so-called 21st Century Cures package aimed at boosting medical research and innovation. The House is expected to consider the Cures bill this week.
McConnell also said he will work with House counterparts to consider two conference reports in the coming days. One likely item is the defense authorization bill that would greenlight more than $600 billion in defense programs. McConnell also said he would work to consider the conference report for the Water Resources Development Act, which includes aid for Flint, Michigan, and its contaminated water system.