McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate

McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Louisiana Republican: People upset at 'spending porn on pet projects' in latest stimulus bill Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (R-Ky.) is turning the Senate toward trying to pass a set of long-stalled appropriations bills. 

"Congress has fallen badly behind schedule on appropriations. It’s been a month since my Democratic colleagues filibustered government funding here on the floor, blocking defense funding and a pay raise for service members. We need to get moving," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
 
McConnell said the Senate will try to take up two packages of spending bills next week. The first, as an olive branch to Democrats, will include domestic priorities. The second package will include a mammoth defense bill, which is considered a top priority for Republicans.  
 
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"In order to meet Democrats halfway, the first House shell we will vote on will be a package of the domestic funding bills. If we can get bipartisan support to take up that domestic funding bill, we will stay on it until we complete it," McConnell said.
 
McConnell's announcement comes as top appropriators, tasked with funding the government, have been meeting to try to break the stalemate that led to a short-term continuing resolution. 
 
Asked about the GOP plan to bring up spending bills, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyMnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill Democrats seek to increase supplemental funding bill to 0 billion MORE (D-Vt.) said on Thursday that "we've been talking about it" and that they've been "negotiating." 
 
 
"Schumer and I and Pelosi and Lowey met earlier this morning. We're trying to work out something," he said, referencing House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal under coronavirus threat MORE (D-N.Y.).
 
McConnell added that he hoped Shelby and Leahy "can work together to craft" a deal on the package of domestic funding. 
 
Shelby had first indicated on Wednesday that he believed they would try to move funding bills on the Senate floor this week. 
 
He added on Thursday that Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJoe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing MORE (D-N.Y.) hasn't promised him the Democratic caucus will support bringing up the government funding bills next week but that he had spoken with Democratic floor staff who indicated "we would be successful." 
 
"The talk on the floor is that we're going to do OK," Shelby added. 
 
Lawmakers need to pass the 12 appropriations bills, or another short-term patch, by Nov. 21 to avoid a shutdown next month. 
 
So far, the Senate has passed none of its fiscal 2020 bills, while the House has passed 10 out of 12. 
 
The Senate previously tried to bring a mammoth package in September that would have included defense spending but Democrats opposed bringing up the bill. 
 
Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to the Senate defense bill that would have limited Trump's ability to redirect Pentagon funding toward the border wall without congressional approval. 
 
It's unclear if Democrats will agree to pass the defense bill. Leahy said Thursday that "defense is going to have to wait a bit."
 
Democrats have been fuming after Republicans forced through top-line spending figures that they felt padded extra money into the Department of Homeland Security.
 
Shelby said Thursday that they had not yet reached a deal with Lowey on the top-line figures but their staffs were talking.
 
In another hurdle spending talks, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Trump to nominate Russell Vought as budget chief Warren, Brown press consumer bureau on auto lending oversight MORE announced Thursday that an upcoming Group of 7 (G-7) summit would take place at Trump's own Doral resort in Florida.
 
Two of the House-passed spending bills, covering the State Department and foreign operations and for financial services and general government, included language blocking the use of funds for the G-7 were it to be held at a Trump property.
 
Democrats quickly seized on Mulvaney's announcement.  
 
"As we prepare to negotiate final appropriations bills, Senate Republicans will have to choose whether to stand up to this blatant corruption or once again allow President TrumpDonald John TrumpHealth insurers Cigna, Humana waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatment Puerto Rico needs more federal help to combat COVID-19 Fauci says April 30 extension is 'a wise and prudent decision' MORE to violate basic norms and profit off the Presidency," a press statement from the House Appropriations committee said.
 
Niv Elis contributed.