Capitol Hill denizens are hoping the next several days will be their last legislative workweek of the year as lawmakers move toward passing a major spending deal to avoid a shutdown.
Time is, once again, running short to meet the new Wednesday deadline to keep the government’s lights on. And with Christmas now less than two weeks away, lawmakers face the additional pressure of getting their work done in time to leave Washington for the holidays.
The secretive negotiations between top congressional leaders have been moving slowly, but lawmakers are hoping to release the text of the yearlong spending package by Monday after pushing the original deadline back by five days.
The House could vote Wednesday at the earliest if the catch-all spending bill, known as an omnibus, is made public on Monday in order to meet a rule that all legislation be made public for three calendar days before a vote.
But the House won’t have its first votes of the week until Tuesday night — an indication that the omnibus might not be released until as late as possible.
The Senate will likely have less than 24 hours to pass either the omnibus bill or yet another stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown Wednesday night.
While senior Republican senators were sounding confident they will be able to meet the deadline, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate's No. 2 Republican: Border tax 'probably dead' McConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Texas) also warned that leadership would need help from all their members.
"If we have to go through the regular procedures it could take up to eight days, so obviously it's going to take a little cooperation unless people want to spend Christmas here," he told reporters late last week.
Conservative lawmakers, as well as Senate's Republican presidential contenders, are remaining tight-lipped about whether they will support an agreement to speed up votes on the spending bill.
Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSeven key players for Trump on immigration New chief selected for Justice Department unit overseeing Russia probe Sessions: Some judges ‘using the law to advance an agenda’ MORE (R-Ala.) previously called on the omnibus to include a provision that would block funding for refugee resettlement until Congress has voted on a plan from the Obama administration.
Asked if he would require the spending bill to go through the Senate's procedural hoops if the language isn't included, he said, "I haven't thought that through."
The spending bill is also expected to be linked to a major package renewing expiring tax credits, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchWhen political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in Ginsburg pines for more collegial court confirmations Senate's No. 2 Republican: Border tax 'probably dead' MORE (R-Utah) saying that negotiations would likely extend through the weekend.
"I could live with the two-year program, but I think ... it would really be stupid for the Democrats to not take the full program", Hatch, who has been involved with the talks, said late last week. "I hope we have a larger package. It's good for Democrats. It's good for Republicans."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated last week that Republicans may have to pass the tax extenders package without the help of Democrats. Her party has been trying to extend the child tax credit and index it to inflation so that it increases over time, but Republicans have been resisting the idea.
"We don't need to be for it," Pelosi said. "They'll have enough Republican votes supporting their special interest friends to pass this thing in a second."
A long-awaited customs enforcement measure is headed toward the Senate after easily passing the House on Friday.
The legislation — which comes after months of negations between House and Senate lawmakers — includes an overhaul of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, as well as new protections for intellectual property and stronger tools for the government to crackdown on currency manipulation.
House Democrats largely opposed the measure, with Pelosi suggesting negotiators "poisoned" the enforcement legislation.
Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenWhat killing net neutrality means for the internet Overnight Tech: Net neutrality fight descends into trench warfare | Zuckerberg visits Ford factory | Verizon shines light on cyber espionage Franken, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal MORE (D-Ore.), however, backed the House-Senate compromise after it was announced last week, saying the lawmakers were "on the verge of passing the strongest package of trade enforcement policies in decades.”
Hatch said separately that he expects it to be passed by the Senate this year, leaving senators with a handful of days to send it to the president, who is expected to sign it.
The Senate's expected to make a last-minute dash on a handful of nominations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) scheduled votes for Monday evening on Alissa Starzak's nomination to be general counsel for the Army, John Conger to be principal deputy undersecretary of Defense, Stephen Welby to be an assistant secretary of Defense and Franklin Parker to be an assistant secretary of the Navy.
The Senate also confirmed a slate of Obama nominees last week, as well as Gayle Smith to be the head of the U.S. Agency for International Developement (USAID) late last month.
But top Obama appointments are still in limbo with Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) saying that "the Republican majority has confirmed fewer nominations of any Congress in decades."
In addition to the pace of judicial nomination votes, Democrats have also homed in on Adam Szubin to be undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes at the Treasury Department. Szubin was one of six nominations that Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownTrump talks big on trade, but workers need action Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Battle begins over Wall Street rules MORE (D-Ohio) tried to pass by unanimous consent on the Senate floor, but he was blocked by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).