This week: Democrats move to prevent shutdown
Democrats are moving to prevent a government shutdown as an agreement on a longer funding bill remains elusive.
The House is expected to take up a stop-gap bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), this week, ahead of the Feb. 18 deadline to fund the government. The House is scheduled to leave town after this week until Feb. 28.
Leadership in both chambers have signaled that they expect the CR, which will continue current funding levels, to be a short-term bill. But they haven’t said how long the bill will keep the government funded.
“We’re gonna get something done, it’ll probably be a short-term CR and it will be this coming week to give us a little more time. Negotiations are very vigorous and I think that we’re going to get agreement both on the top line, how much spending is going to be in, and how it will be spent,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told MSNBC on Sunday.
“But it’s not there yet, so I expect to do a continuing resolution to continue the authorization for government to operate and be funded this coming week and hopefully the Senate will do the same,” he added.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, added that he expected that if there was a CR it would be “short term” and that “people are committed to getting a bill and that we really need to get a bill.”
The need for a CR comes as members of leadership and top members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have been swapping offers as they try to come up with a larger omnibus bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the 2022 fiscal year.
But Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, indicated last week that he thought a CR would likely be needed. The length of the CR, Shelby floated, could be tied to if leadership thinks they could quickly make progress on the larger funding deal.
“That’d be up to [Senate Majority Leader Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] to work that out. But if it’s a short-term [continuing resolution] that would mean probably that we’re making some progress,” Shelby said.
McConnell and Schumer met on Thursday to discuss the rest of the Senate’s current work period, which runs through Feb. 18, when senators are expected to leave for a one-week Presidents Day recess.
Schumer indicated that the two spoke about a number of issues, but declined to say if they were making progress toward a funding deal. Democrats are also short of a vote in the wake of Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s (D-N.M.) stroke. Luján aides said last week that he would return within four to six weeks barring complications.
“We’re trying to make progress we’ve got a lot of things we could do in a bipartisan way,” Schumer said afterward.
Senators are working to lock down a deal on Russia sanctions as they work to pass an agreement before a potential invasion into Ukraine.
Top senators indicated late last week, after a closed-door briefing by the administration, that they were on the precipice of a deal. And members of the negotiating group said on Sunday that they believed they were largely in agreement on the substance of a bill.
“We hope to show Mr. Putin that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House, and that the White House, are united,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said during an interview with Fox News.
The deal is expected to include some sanctions that would be implemented immediately in response to Russian cyberattacks and efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government. Senators are also expected to green-light sweeping sanctions if Russia does invade Ukraine, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian banks and other sectors of the country’s economy.
Senators are under pressure to quickly get a deal amid concerns that Putin is nearing completion of the prep work necessary for a full-scale invasion.
Russia has assembled 70 percent of the military forces needed to launch a massive invasion of Ukraine that could result in tens of thousands of civilian deaths and millions of refugees, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.
Senior Biden officials warned in briefings to lawmakers and European partners in recent days that if Moscow elects to launch a full invasion of Ukraine, 50,000 civilians could be killed and up to 5 million refugees could result, multiple news outlets reported on Saturday, including The Washington Post.
Postal Service reforms
The House is poised to vote on legislation that would overhaul the United States Postal Service.
The bill eliminates a requirement that the Postal Service prepay future retirement health benefits. The bill allows the Postal Service to provide non-postal services as part of an agreement with state and local governments. It also requires that the Postal Service make deliveries six days of the week.
The Senate is expected to continue grinding through President Biden’s nominees.
The Senate is expected to vote Monday night on Ebony M. Scott’s nomination to be a be an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and Donald Walker Tunnage’s nomination to be an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.