This week: Congress poised to buy more time on spending, coronavirus talks
© Greg Nash

Congress is poised to punt a deadline for government funding talks as negotiators try to lock down a yearlong deal and a long-stalled coronavirus bill. 

Lawmakers face a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the government and prevent a holiday government shutdown, with the date also viewed as an unofficial cliff for coronavirus relief negotiations. 

But with talks unfinished, and time running short, aides say Congress is likely to pass a one-week continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Dec. 18 in an attempt to buy themselves more time to finish the larger negotiations.

ADVERTISEMENT

The stopgap bill could be introduced as soon as Monday. 

The Senate was already scheduled to stay in Washington until Dec. 18. But the House had initially been scheduled to leave Washington on Dec. 11, to provide lawmakers ample time to quarantine ahead of the holidays. 

“We have a lot of work to do and just a few days to do it,” Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-Ill.) told ABC News’s “This Week” about the week ahead. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMan who threatened to kill Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pleads guilty to federal charges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE (R-Ky.) both say they want a deal on full-year funding bills that coronavirus relief could ride on. The two spoke on Thursday, with the GOP leader telling reporters, “I think we're both interested in getting an outcome, both on the omnibus and on a coronavirus package.”

Negotiators reached a deal on top-line figures for the 12 government funding bills late last month, and appropriators have kicked unresolved issues up to the leadership level. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Negotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence MORE and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Former US attorney considering Senate run in Vermont as Republican MORE (D-Vt.), the panel’s ranking member, have said the bulk of the agreement is worked out. 

But leadership still needs to untangle a laundry list of sticking points including the border wall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) beds, Veterans Affairs health care and environmental riders. 

“I was hopeful we'd accomplish those objectives by next Thursday. Unfortunately, things are not moving as rapidly as I think they ought to,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill  MORE (D-Md.) said from the floor on Friday. “Members need to be advised that they need to keep their schedules very, very flexible.” 

Mixed in with the government funding talks are efforts to break a monthlong stalemate on more coronavirus relief as cases spike across the country and some cities and states reinstate lockdown measures heading into the holidays. 

Pelosi added that she hoped the momentum on a potential coronavirus relief deal “will accelerate the discussions on the omnibus.” 

Helping feed momentum for leadership to cut a deal, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers introduced a framework last week for a $908 billion bill. They are hoping to release text of the agreement on Monday, though as of late last week they hadn’t yet worked out language on liability protections or state and local aid. 

In a hurdle for the bipartisan group, Democrats have been wary of McConnell’s push for liability protections while a swath of GOP senators view more money for states and cities as a non-starter. 

“Our final language … will probably come out early this week, earlier this week, and so then people can look at it and we can modify it as needed,” Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyBipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill ​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Sunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates MORE (R-La.) told “Fox News Sunday,” adding that he was “optimistic” that leadership would come on board. 

Defense bill 

Congressional leaders are moving forward with a mammoth defense policy bill despite a looming veto threat from President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE

The House is poised to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday, and the bill was on a list of legislative items on the Senate’s agenda for the week from McConnell’s office. 

Trump has warned that he will veto the bill because it does not include a repeal of Section 230, a key liability protection for online tech platforms. 

But top Republicans have publicly urged him to back down, arguing that while they share his frustration the defense bill, which has passed for 59 years in a row, isn’t the place to litigate the battle. 

“230 has nothing to do with the military," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia Biden sparks confusion, cleanup on Russia-Ukraine remarks Republicans say Mayorkas failed to deliver report on evacuated Afghans MORE (R-Okla.). "I agree with his sentiments ... but you can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill." 

ADVERTISEMENT

If Trump vetoes the bill, lawmakers are expected to try to override. Hoyer told Bloomberg late last week that the House has the votes to override. The GOP-controlled Senate is less certain. Top Republicans have previously predicted they would override, and the Senate’s NDAA initially passed with 86 votes. Trump has issued eight vetoes since 2017, with none successfully overridden.  

In addition to the tech fight, the bill breaks with or reins in Trump on several fronts, underscoring the deep divisions on national security between the president and GOP allies that have been a throughline over the past four years.

The bill includes language requiring the changing of the names of Confederate-named bases and military installations within three years, limits Trump’s ability to pull troops out of Germany and Afghanistan and places restrictions on transferring military-grade weapons to police.

Arms sale

The Senate could vote as soon as this week to try to block Trump’s arms sale to the United Arab Emirates. 

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine MORE (D-N.J.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative Wicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions MORE (D-Conn.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Rand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN MORE (R-Ky.) introduced four resolutions last month to block the $23 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets, armed drones, missiles and bombs. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Menendez predicted that the resolutions will come up for a vote this week. Supporters will need a simple majority to initially get them through the Senate. Arms sales have become a point of contention between Capitol Hill and the administration, though neither the House nor Senate is expected to have the two-thirds necessary to ultimately override a likely veto. 

If every Democrat supports the resolution, they would need two Republican senators in addition to Paul to pass the resolutions of disapproval through the Senate. Because the measures are privileged they can come up for a vote despite opposition from GOP leadership.

Iran resolution 

The House is slated to vote on a resolution rebuking the Iranian government for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and human rights violations. 

The measure — led by Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchIt's time for Biden to keep his promises on Israel and the UN Florida Democrats call on DeSantis to accept federal help to expand COVID-19 testing Last living Nuremberg Trials prosecutor deserves Congressional Gold Medal MORE (D-Fla.) —  notes that “since 1979, Iranian authorities have killed or executed more than 200 Baha’i leaders, and more than 10,000 have been dismissed from government and university jobs.”

The resolution calls for the immediate release of imprisoned or detained Baha’is solely being held on account of their religious beliefs, ceasing the use of state-sponsored propaganda against Baha’is and to unwind policies preventing access to equal educational opportunities. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The measure also calls on the president and secretary of State to “impose sanctions on officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for serious human rights abuses.” 

Nominations

McConnell has teed up additional nominations for the Senate floor this week. 

The Senate will take a procedural vote on Monday evening on Stephen Schwartz’s nomination to be a judge on the court of federal claims. 

McConnell has also teed up Nathan Simington’s Federal Communications Commission nomination. 

Simington’s nomination was advanced out of the Senate Commerce Committee in a 14-12 party-line vote. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the full Senate, though both parties have had absences in recent weeks. 

Simington’s presence on the commission would leave it at a 2-2 partisan deadlock when current chairman Ajit PaiAjit PaiLobbying world Biden revokes Trump-era order targeting shield for website operators Top Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles MORE steps down on Jan. 20.