Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown, a recognition that Congress needs several more weeks of negotiations to hatch a longer-term spending bill and fund the government into next fall.
McConnell's position aligns with that of House Democratic leaders, who said the chamber will vote next week on a stopgap bill to fund the government past Sept. 30. McConnell said the Senate’s focus in September will be working out yearlong funding bills based on the two-year budget agreement forged before the August recess.
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“A major focus of the Senate this month will be moving forward as many of the regular appropriations bills as possible and then passing a temporary continuing resolution for the outstanding parts of the government before the end of September,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday. With consent from all 100 senators, the Senate can quickly take up and pass a short-term spending bill later this month.
Congressional leaders have not yet decided on the length of time the funding bill would cover, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has suggested until Nov. 22. Typically, leaders use a date near a major holiday to force action to fund the government, although last year the government shut down in late December due to a dispute between Democrats and President Donald Trump over border wall funding.
Still, last year Senate Republicans passed more of the 12 annual appropriations bills than they had in years, funding roughly 75 percent of the government before that partial shutdown. McConnell said he was “confident” the Senate could pass some of those bills in the coming weeks then avert a shutdown of the remaining unfunded departments.
Trump declined to sign off on the Senate’s stopgap spending bill last year since it did not provide significant boosts in border funding. But this time, Republicans believe that since he’s received billions in border funding via his national emergency declaration, the president will agree to congressional leaders’ spending plan.