Senate to start work on funding bills with shutdown deadline looming

Senate to start work on funding bills with shutdown deadline looming
© Greg Nash

Senators are set to start work on their fiscal 2020 government funding bills with only weeks to go until the deadline to avoid a government shutdown. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on four funding bills Thursday, according to a schedule released by Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November MORE (R-Ala.): defense; labor, health and human services, and education; energy and water; and state and foreign operations. 

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The panel will also vote on the top-line spending numbers, known as 302(b)s, for the 12 individual spending bills next week. 

The votes will mark the first package of fiscal 2020 funding bills to be taken up by the committee so far this year. While the House has passed 10 out of the 12 individual funding bills, the Senate put its legislation on hold while leadership and President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE hashed out the two-year budget deal

Congress has until Oct. 1 to pass the fiscal 2020 funding bills or a continuing resolution (CR), which would give them more time to negotiate and temporarily continue funding at the fiscal 2019 levels.  

The plan for the Senate Appropriations Committee to move forward with its funding bills comes after House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Democrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' News outlets choose their darlings, ignore others' voices MORE (D-Md.) said in a letter to House Democrats that they are planning to bring up a CR during the week of Sept. 16 — the week after Congress returns from its current break.  

Senators have acknowledged that a CR of some form will be necessary to prevent a shutdown starting on Oct. 1.

But Senate appropriators are hoping to get at least one significant package to Trump's desk before the deadline, which would limit how much of the government has to be funded by a CR. 

Shelby has floated trying to get a bill that combines funding for defense; labor, health and human services, and education; and energy and water to Trump's desk. 

“It we did that, that would be over 70 percent of the expenditure,” Shelby told reporters about the package before the recess. “That would be progress big time.”