Shutdown Risk Rises as U.S. Congress Stalls on Stopgap Bill -Breaking
(Bloomberg:) The threat of a U.S. Government shutdown rose Wednesday, with Congress Republicans and Democrats splitting over a short term spending bill that would keep agencies operating and some GOP lawmakers warning against a halt to the protesting vaccine mandates.
Majority Democrats would like to see current agency funding extended into January, or even later due to the impasse between Senate Republicans and full-year fiscal 2022 budget bills. Even though party leaders expressed their confidence that all issues would be settled in the shortest time possible, no action has been taken on any stopgap bills.
Democrats said they have not gotten a proposal from Republicans on how long the stopgap should last and there are growing concerns that a faction of conservatives will attempt to trigger a shutdown to block funding for President Joe Biden’s initiative requiring large private employers to either mandate vaccinations against Covid-19 or provide weekly testing.
“We need to point out where the logjam is and right now the logjam is in the U.S. Senate,” Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, said. He called any attempt to defund the government over vaccine mandates is “nonsensical.”
“I can’t imagine we would walk back the safety precautions,” he said.
Rosa DeLauro, House Appropriations Chair, stated that she was working with bipartisan negotiations to end the impasse and expressed optimism it will be resolved.
“Negotiations are underway. It is not in the interest of closing down government. We are not shutting the government down,” he said. However, she acknowledged the fact that there is a short time.
“Nobody knows that better than I do,” DeLauro said.
All Senate Republicans must cooperate to meet the deadline by Wednesday. Even though there may be enough GOP support to pass the stopgap bill, each senator has the right to demand additional procedural steps from Senate. This can go on for almost a week.
That could come from an effort by a group of GOP senators to link support for the stopgap measure to halting funding for the Biden administration’s workplace rule on vaccinations and testing.
Roger Marshall, Kansas senator, led the Nov. 3 protest letter that was signed by 10 Senate Republicans. It pledged to reject any efforts to enforce the vaccination mandate and to object to all government funding bills. Marshall’s office pointed to that release when asked Wednesday about whether the senator would hold up the funding bill.
Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday to reporters that he is confident that there will be no cut in funding for the government.
“We won’t shut down,” McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and McConnell were “having good conversations” about the stopgap but warned that the group of conservatives may hold things up.
“I hope that a small group of Republicans don’t choose obstruction and try to shut down the government,” Schumer said. “It’s always easy to say you want to shut down the government over something I care about, this one cares about, that one. If everyone did that we’d have chaos. We need to come together and keep the government open.”
A few House Republicans led by Freedom Caucus support shutting down the government so that it can’t enforce the federal vaccine requirement or the test requirement for private companies. This group claims that the policy is a violation of individual liberties.
“We therefore write to request that you use all procedural tools at your disposal to deny timely passage of the CR unless it prohibits funding – in all respects – for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof,” the Freedom Caucus wrote to McConnell on Wednesday.
For some House conservatives, it’s a test to see if the conference can unite in opposition to Biden.
“You’re not going to be able to stop them from doing everything,” Ohio Republican Representative Warren Davidson said. “They have the majority. But can you pick an issue and unite Republicans and make a difference, even from the minority?”
The Freedom Caucus group wouldn’t be able to delay action in the House and other Republicans aren’t inclined to oppose a stopgap funding measure.
“Probably because they think, somehow, creating chaos — which they are masters of — will hurt president Biden,” New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic caucus chair, said. “It’s not going to work. We’re prepared to act.”
If the stopgap doesn’t turn out to have any objectionable policy provisions, Representative Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, said the GOP conference should support it.
Amodei stated that previous shutdowns had been unsuccessful.
“The threat of shutting down, in my experience, has never worked to get the side that shut it down what it wanted,” Amodei said. “We shut it down over health care for a long time and when we opened it up, nothing had changed.”
An additional stopgap measure must be taken because Congress has not passed any of 12 annual appropriations legislations necessary for funding ordinary government operations in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. Republicans and Democrats have not begun serious negotiations to settle their differences over the bills. Republicans demand that Democrats reject a range of policy provisions, including government funding abortions.
This temporary measure will put agencies on autopilot and freeze program funding levels. It also forbids new contracts. There are very few exceptions.
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