House Sets Up Tight Timeline to Pass Another Shutdown-Averting Spending Bill

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Lawmakers appear poised to punt a Thanksgiving shutdown threat to Christmas.

The House will vote the week of Nov. 18 on a measure to keep federal agencies open past Nov. 21, when a current stopgap bill is set to expire. 

Lawmakers will bring up another continuing resolution with just days to spare before a potential shutdown, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday. The measure will give Congress additional time to set allocations for each of the 12 spending bills it must pass each year. House Democrats and Senate Republicans have yet to reach an agreement on those funding levels, but plan to meet next week for further negotiations. 

Hoyer did not say how long the CR will last, but indicated it could expire in December. Appropriations leaders previously speculated the stopgap would last into February or March. 

“I remain hopeful that we can finish our work and fully fund the government before the end of the year,” Hoyer said. 

President Trump recently refused to rule out a shutdown, saying his signature on another spending measure depended on how negotiations unfolded. A top aide, however, subsequently said he would sign a CR so long as it did not disrupt ongoing construction of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The Senate has easily approved a package of appropriations measures to fund the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Justice and other agencies. The chamber, however, rejected a second “minibus” that included funding for the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Labor due to Democratic concerns over funding for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, abortion-related policy riders and other issues.

Even if the Senate were able to advance its own spending bills, it would still have to reconcile them with the House versions. The Democratically controlled lower chamber has approved 10 of the 12 annual appropriations measures, largely along party lines.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., raised the possibility that Trump would block any spending measure from moving forward over unrelated issues. 

"I'm increasingly worried that President Trump may want to shut down the government again because of impeachment," Schumer said. “He always likes to create diversions. I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment. It’s very worrisome to me.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not yet set a timeline for approving a CR, but has indicated that he would also like to wrap up the appropriations process before the end of the year. If that goal becomes unrealistic due to a lack of progress in negotiations over spending levels, lawmakers could revert back to passing a longer stopgap into early 2020. 

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