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Clock ticking as Dems try to pass big spending bill by Dec. 16 deadline

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House and Senate Democrats have less than two weeks to find a way to fund the government past Dec. 16, and may be forced to level-fund the government if they can’t convince Republicans to expand federal spending in some areas as part of a full-year ‘omnibus’ spending bill.

Funding for discretionary programs expires at the end of next week, and without a new funding bill, the government would face a partial shutdown. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week that her ‘strong preference’ is to pass a bill providing money for the rest of fiscal year 2023.

‘You’ve heard me say again and again, as an appropriator myself, left to their own devices… the Republicans and Democrats, in a bipartisan way, on the Appropriations Committee can reach a solution, and we should let them do that,’ she said. But she admitted that may not be possible, and that a ‘continuing resolution’ that leaves current funding levels in place might be the only option.

‘We don’t like that,’ she said, admitting Democratic plans to boost spending. ‘But… if we can’t have a solution, we have no choice but to keep government open with a year-long CR. We’ve made that very clear in the White House meeting the other day, and in conversations with our colleagues on the subject, it would be a last resort because, as you know, it would have a direct impact on so much that we want to do in the legislation.’

House Democrats can pass whatever spending they like as long as they stick together, but legislation that focuses only on Democratic priorities would likely get held up in the Senate, where 10 Republicans are needed to pass a bill.

Pressure is growing on Senate Republicans not to accept any full-year funding bill, and to wait until Republicans take control of the House next year. Last week, Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Rick Scott of Florida and Mike Braun of Indiana told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to reject an omnibus bill and wait until the GOP takes control of the House.

‘We believe it would be both imprudent, and a reflection of poor leadership, for Republicans to ignore the will of the American people and rubber stamp an omnibus spending bill that funds 10 more months of President Biden’s agenda without any check on his reckless policies that have led to a 40-year high in inflation,’ they wrote.

Those sorts of pressures will make it difficult for leaders on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to work out possible outlines to an omnibus spending bill, and might even make it difficult to agree to a year-long CR.

The Senate letter said specifically that the Senate should only accept a short-term funding bill that lets the GOP-run House figure out spending plans for the rest of the year, which would likely result in a more aggressive stance on spending and could lead to proposals for cutting back some of the Democrats’ pet projects.

‘We must not accept anything other than a short-term Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government until shortly after the 118th Congress is sworn in,’ the Senate letter said. ‘No additional spending, no additional policy priorities should be included.’

Some Republicans are already unhappy that Republican leaders are working with Democrats in any way on a spending deal.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, tweeted Monday that Senate GOP leadership is ‘working overtime to try to pass an omnibus spending bill in collusion with Democrats rather than a short term continuing resolution… right after joining with Democrats to undermine marriage & religious liberty.’ 

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