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Party leaders back another short-term funding bill — if needed

Party leaders back another short-term funding bill — if needed
© Greg Nash

Leading lawmakers in both parties are voicing support for another short-term extension of government funding — if one is needed to prevent a shutdown at the end of the week.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on DC statehood, gender pay gap Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (D-Md.) and Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said separately on Wednesday that they'll support a continuing resolution to keep the government running if the debate over broader legislation is not wrapped up before Friday night.

"I'm against shutting down government," Hoyer told reporters on a press call. "I think it is a stark admission of failure."

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Bipartisan negotiators are racing to iron out the lingering wrinkles in two sweeping proposals they hope to finalize Wednesday: one to fund the government through next September and the other to provide roughly $900 billion in emergency coronavirus relief to struggling families and small businesses.

The plan is then to combine those bills into a single legislative package and push it through both chambers before the current government funding bill expires at midnight Saturday.

Congress has already adopted two short-term spending bills, one that funded the government between Oct. 1 and Dec. 11 and a second to extend that funding through Dec. 18.

With no COVID-19 deal yet announced, leaders in both parties are bracing for the possibility that another continuing resolution might be required as a cushion to allow Congress to secure passage of the broader spending legislation without shuttering government operations in the process.

"I want to get done by Friday night, but if we don't get done by Friday night, I don't want to shut down government," Hoyer said. "And if we need three or four more days, we're going to take as much time as is necessary to fund the government and as well as [bring] relief to those who have been savaged by COVID-19. So I'm not for shutting down the government, and we'll do what it takes not to do that."

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Shelby delivered a similar message on Wednesday. Asked about passing a short resolution, he indicated he would be supportive, saying Congress would do “whatever we have to do.”

The emerging deal on coronavirus relief marks a breakthrough for party negotiators who had sought unsuccessfully for months to secure another round of emergency aid as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths has soared around the country.

To create the space for an agreement, each side appears to have dropped one of its primary demands: Republicans are no longer insisting on liability protections for businesses and schools, while Democrats have agreed to punt state and local government funding until next year, when they feel they'll have more leverage with Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE in the White House.