White House

White House and Congress eye December battle to avoid shutdown

Trump's legislative director said the president would sign a bill that funds the government into December.

Eric Ueland

Washington is likely headed toward yet another Christmas-time shutdown battle as leaders in Congress and the White House begin making plans to push this month's funding deadline into late December.

A senior adviser to President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the White House is willing to back a monthlong government funding bill that would punt a potential shutdown battle until December.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised his caucus on a conference call Tuesday to prepare to remain in town the week of Dec. 16, according to multiple people on the call.

With less than three weeks to hammer out a spending deal to avert a Thanksgiving funding lapse, leaders of both parties appear to be coalescing around a stopgap bill that would stave off a funding lapse until at least mid-December — potentially teeing up yet another holiday shutdown over Trump's border wall.

“So long as the continuing resolution does not impede the President's ability to pursue his policies, the administration is willing to support passage of a continuing resolution with a December date,” Eric Ueland, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said in a statement.

Congressional leaders in both parties also support passing a bill to fund the government through December, a deadline intended to pressure negotiators to finish all 12 spending bills before the end of the year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed a short-term spending bill last week to avoid a shutdown, POLITICO previously reported.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democratic lawmakers on a conference call on Tuesday afternoon that he prefers a Dec. 15 deadline, which would allow a few days of leeway before Hanukkah and Christmas.

Hoyer said the extra week in session would deal with a possible funding vote, though it may also line up with the Democratic Caucus' timeline for a potential vote to impeach Trump.

“My preference is we get this done before the end of the calendar year,” Hoyer told reporters last week. “We should’ve gotten it done by the end of the fiscal year, but certainly we ought to get it done by the end of the year.”

Some senior appropriators, however, have sought an even longer-term resolution — funding the government into February — since the two chambers have yet to agree on a single spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year.

Several lawmakers have also warned that the House’s fast-moving impeachment probe, with a slate of hearings and a potential floor vote by the end of the year, could also hinder Congress’ ability to strike a deal by next month.

"It would be a wonderful thing to do — do all of our approps, do all that. Could it be done? It could be done. The question is: Will it be done?" Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said last week about the prospect of completing spending work by year’s end.

Top lawmakers remain divided over several key policies — most significantly, Trump’s border wall. Republican and Democratic leaders can’t agree on how to pay for the wall, if at all, as well as limits on the administration’s ability to shuffle money from other departments to pay for the project.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned recently that Trump might shut the government down to seek a diversion from being impeached.

Trump initially dismissed that suggestion over the weekend, saying, “no, no, no” when asked by a reporter if he would shut down the government because of the impeachment drive. But then he left the door open.

“It depends on — it depends on what the negotiation — I wouldn't commit to anything,” Trump said. “It depends on what the negotiation is.”