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.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (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 Pelosi (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.

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 Axne (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 Meadows 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 Ginsburg on Friday.

Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to move forward with confirming Ginsburg’s replacement in the weeks before Election Day. President Trump 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.

Tags CCC Cindy Axne Commodity Credit Corporation Continuing resolution Coronavirus COVID-19 CR Donald Trump farm aid government funding Government shutdown Mark Meadows Nancy Pelosi Pandemic Ruth Bader Ginsburg School lunches Steny Hoyer
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