The November election is complicating the Democratic strategy in the looming government shutdown fight.
Feeling momentum as they aim to win back the Senate and the White House, Democrats are divided over whether to agree to a the GOP-favored stopgap bill that lasts into December or push for a longer deal to fund the government into early 2021.
A shorter bill, supporters hope, would force Congress to reach a larger funding deal before the end of the year. But a bill that lasts into next year would take a lame duck shutdown fight off the table and give Democrats more leverage if Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump slams Nevada governor at rally, takes aim at mail-in voting Former NFL coach Mike Holmgren slams Trump pandemic response, throws support to Biden Trump leans into foreign policy amid domestic disapproval MORE is elected president.
“We’ve gone back and forth, it’s a split decision in the caucus. If you can tell us what happens Nov. 3 it is a lot easier. … The uncertainty about the presidential election is an element,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Senate Democrats introduce bill to sanction Russians over Taliban bounties Keep teachers in the classroom MORE (Ill.) said when asked about the length of a bill.
Congress has until Sept. 30 to strike a deal and pass a stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution (CR), which will continue current funding levels and let Washington avoid a messy shutdown roughly a month before the election.
Though House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPresident Nancy Pelosi? Don’t underestimate what she might do in office Longtime House parliamentarian to step down Overnight Health Care: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ | Fauci disagrees with Trump that US rounding ‘final turn’ on pandemic | NIH director ‘disheartened’ by lack of masks at Trump rally MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Health Care: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ | Fauci disagrees with Trump that US rounding ‘final turn’ on pandemic | NIH director ‘disheartened’ by lack of masks at Trump rally McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ FDNY says Treasury withheld .7M from 9/11 first responder fund MORE have informally agreed to a “clean” spending bill, they have not struck an agreement on the length of the legislation.
Neither Pelosi nor Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden, Pence elbow bump at NYC Sept. 11 ceremony FDNY says Treasury withheld .7M from 9/11 first responder fund MORE (N.Y.) have publicly endorsed a timeline. A House Democratic aide noted that behind-the-scenes negotiations about what the strategy should be are ongoing.
“We are now looking at anomalies in the rest, and we’ll figure out the timing when we do,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference.
Schumer added that Democrats were “discussing what time the CR should go to and we haven’t formulated our position yet.”
Some Democrats are open to a stopgap bill into December, arguing that they want to finish work on the fiscal 2021 bills by the end of the year. That could let Democrats focus on other legislative priorities next year and avoid an immediate funding fight.
“I think we could get a good package done in the lame duck,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyGermany says Kremlin critic was poisoned with same nerve agent used in UK attack Democrats seek balance in backing protests, condemning violence Graham tweets support for Navalny: ‘The Russian people will reach a tipping point where they tire of Putin’ MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Appropriations Committee. “I’m never a fan of CRs in general and not a fan of long CRs. I’d like to believe we could use the lame duck to write a good budget.”
Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats divided over 1998 embassy bombing settlement Filibuster fight looms if Democrats retake Senate Second senator tests positive for coronavirus MORE (D-Va.) said he thought the funding bill should go into mid-to-late December, adding “we ought to try to wrap it all up before Christmas.”
There’s no guarantee a December deadline would force Congress to reach an agreement on full fiscal 2021 bills, and doing so during the lame duck could be a herculean legislative task.
The House is scheduled to be in session for 13 days between the election and the end of the year. And while the House has already passed 10 of the 12 fiscal 2021 government funding bills, the Senate hasn’t even introduced one amid a standoff on amendment votes.
Others are pushing for a longer bill that would keep the government funded into next year. That strategy would avoid a year-end shutdown fight, and could give Democrats more leverage to craft a package in 2021 that includes more of their priorities if November goes well for the party.
Polls show Biden leading Trump, and the battle for the Senate majority has moved in Democrats’ favor compared to the start of the cycle.
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHillicon Valley: Russia ‘amplifying’ concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election | Facebook and Twitter take steps to limit Trump remarks on voting | Facebook to block political ads ahead of election Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts Furlough canceled for 13,000 immigration services workers MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is pushing for a longer CR, and has floated a bill that goes as far as into March.
“I would prefer a longer one. … I think it gives more stability and saves money” Leahy said.
But passing a stopgap bill into early next year could add to what is expected to be a lengthy legislative to-do list for Democrats if they win back the White House and hold majorities in the House and Senate for the first time since President Obama’s first two years in office.
“I’ve heard it argued both ways. But I just want to tell you that if we have a new president, a new administration and even new leadership in the Senate it’s going to be a very busy January,” Durbin said.
Demanding a longer CR would set up a clash with Republicans, who are supportive of passing a continuing resolution that runs into December. Congress has a tight timeline to haggle over the funding bill. When the House convenes on Monday, it will have 12 legislative days until the Sept. 30 deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump campaign bets big on digital ads to counter Biden ‘Top Chef’ star Tom Colicchio presses Congress to boost SNAP benefits during pandemic Overnight Health Care: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ | Fauci disagrees with Trump that US rounding ‘final turn’ on pandemic | NIH director ‘disheartened’ by lack of masks at Trump rally MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters this week that he would back a “clean” CR that goes into December. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill Pessimism grows as hopes fade for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Ala.) indicated that Mnuchin is also supportive of the timeline.
“We’re advocating a December deal. That’s what the leader wants, that’s what I want; I think Mnuchin is on board on that,” Shelby said.
Asked about some Democrats wanting a longer stopgap bill, Shelby noted that he had spoken with Leahy but “I told him we weren’t going to do that.”