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House moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks

House moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks
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House Democrats are aiming for a vote Tuesday evening on legislation to avert a government shutdown after rekindling talks with Republicans and the Trump administration over disputed farm assistance.

The House was originally slated to vote Tuesday afternoon on legislation advanced solely by Democrats, but multiple aides said those plans were temporarily put on hold as bipartisan talks resumed over aid for farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as well as nutrition assistance for children in low-income families.

Lawmakers are running up against a tight deadline, with just eight days left before current federal funding expires. The government would shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn't pass a spending bill before then.

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House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) 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 PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) also said Tuesday afternoon that Democrats would have an announcement “soon.”

Guidance from Hoyer’s office on the House floor schedule advised lawmakers that a vote on the stopgap bill is expected on Tuesday.

House Democrats introduced legislation on Monday that would extend current government funding through Dec. 11, but it did 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 — amid 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.

Republicans bashed the introduction of House Democrats’ bill on Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE (R-Ky.) tweeting that “this is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America.”

“This is a really big issue in farm country and there are both Democrats and Republicans who are farmers. I'm hoping we can get that worked out and go forward,” McConnell told reporters.

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 a major public health crisis.

Republicans are also eager to focus on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Biden owes us an answer on court-packing MORE on Friday.

Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to move forward with confirming Ginsburg's replacement just weeks before Election Day. President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE has said that he plans to announce his nominee on Saturday, saying he intends to pick a woman for the position.

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

Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, first lady in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote 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."

Despite Democrats initially opting to go it alone with their own bill on Monday, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSchumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pfizer could apply for US emergency use approval for coronavirus vaccine by late November Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol MORE expressed optimism on Tuesday morning 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.