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House Democrats mull delay on spending bill vote

House Democrats mull delay on spending bill vote
© Bonnie Cash

House Democrats may postpone a planned Tuesday vote on a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11 as talks resume with Republicans and the Trump administration over disputed farm assistance.

Talks are currently ongoing over the aid for farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as well as nutrition assistance for children in low-income families, according to multiple Democratic aides.

Depending on how the bipartisan discussions unfold, aides said on Tuesday that the originally planned vote could be postponed.

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House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Pelosi signals no further action against Omar Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider Trump decision not to tighten soot standards | Interior proposes withdrawal of Trump rule that would allow drillers to pay less | EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations MORE (D-Md.) later said the two sides are ”close” to a deal on government funding and could vote on an amended bill as soon as Tuesday night.

“I’m hopeful that we may be able to move it tonight,” Hoyer told reporters, noting that ”if we have a deal and people want to cooperate, it won’t be that late.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Overnight Health Care: Biden pleads for more people to get vaccinated | Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety | Novavax COVID-19 vaccine shown highly effective in trial MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday afternoon that Democrats would have an announcement “soon.”

Time is increasingly running short, with only eight days left before current federal funding expires. The government would shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn't pass a spending bill in time.

House Democrats introduced legislation on Monday that would extend government funding through Dec. 11, but it does not include a provision requested by the White House to ensure farm aid payments continue flowing through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which has a borrowing limit of $30 billion.

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The Trump administration has made billions available for farmers — a key constituency in the president's base — due to the pandemic as well as to buffer the impact of the trade wars with China.

Democrats have been opposed to including the CCC funding in the stopgap spending bill, arguing that it amounts to a "political slush fund" to soften the impact of the president's trade policies.

Also at issue in the spending talks is an extension of a program created by a coronavirus relief measure earlier this year to ensure that children who normally receive free or reduced-cost meals at school still have access while schools are closed for in-person instruction due to the pandemic.

Both sides have strong incentives to avoid a damaging shutdown a month before the November elections and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

House Democratic leaders had also faced pushback from some of their own members about the lack of farm aid.

Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneIowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines First Democrat announces Senate bid against Iowa's Grassley On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (D-Iowa), a first-term lawmaker in a competitive district, called on congressional leadership to include the farm aid in the stopgap spending bill.

“I am deeply frustrated that once again Washington is playing games with the vital aid that Iowa’s farmers need as they continue to struggle with the long-term effects of a public health crisis, an economic downturn, a trade war, and recent natural disasters,” Axne said in a statement. “In the midst of a national public health crisis and recession, the last thing Congress should do is allow the government to shut down – but before that deadline I urge leaders in the House to reverse course and include this vital aid."

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBiden's no-drama White House chief Ex-Trump aide Meadows pushed DOJ to probe multiple election theories: report Trump working with Gingrich on policy agenda: report MORE expressed optimism on Tuesday about reaching a resolution to avoid a shutdown.

"It appears that we’ll be able to make a deal and keep the government open there," Meadows said during a Fox Business interview. 

Republicans are also eager to focus on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE on Friday.

Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to move forward with confirming Ginsburg's replacement in the weeks before Election Day. President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE has said that he plans to announce his nominee, which he intends to be a woman, on Saturday.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed. Updated at 3:49 p.m.