Democrats at the U.S. Congress are planning to present a bill that will fund the government until the end of this fiscal year to try to pressurize Republicans before the Dec. 16 deadline for funding, a Senate top Democrat stated on Thursday.
Republicans will be the major party in the House of Representatives in next year’s election. Their votes are needed in the Senate this month to approve the measure.
Congress still has time to pass either an “omnibus”, which would fund the government until Sept. 30, 2023 or a smaller “continuing resolution” in order to prevent a shutdown. Conservative Republicans are pushing for a shorter-term bill to put off talks on the full-year bill until January, when they’ll have a better negotiating position.
On Thursday, Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Democratic Senate Appropriations Committee said that he considers the proposal fair and bipartisan.
He said that it would finance the Defense Department at $858 billion, the record amount contained in the National Defense Authorization Act Bill now passing through Congress. However, it would also contain increases to domestic non-defense programs, which conservative Republicans reject.
To pass the measure in 50-50 Senate, Democrats will need to have the support of 10 Republicans.
Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took a tough line against the opposition.
McConnell stated that passing a defense authorization bill, and appropriate the funds our military requires are not demands of right-wing Democrats for which Democrats can get unrelated benefits. He spoke shortly after Leahy’s speech. “We will not allow Democrats to hijack the government funding process…and take our troops hostage for more spending.”
Senator Richard Shelby, top Republican appropriator of funds, stated earlier this week that the sides were just about $25 billion apart. He described it as “pretty close to an agreement”. This would be 1.7% of the $1.5 trillion annual budget.
Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader and aspiring speaker of the House when his party gains majority control on January 3, is pushing for substantial spending cuts. This puts McConnell in an awkward negotiating situation.
Over the past several years Congress has allocated roughly equal amounts of funding to defense and non-defense programs. Conservative Republicans long wanted to change this funding model.
If Democrats fail to succeed in the Senate, Congress may have to pass a temporary funding bill to simply increase current funding levels.
Last time Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on this legislation, there was a 35-day, record-breaking shutdown that lasted from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. Trump’s request for huge new investments to build a U.S. border wall with Mexico was the main obstacle. Many considered it inefficient and unnecessary.