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Lawmakers dismiss fresh fears of another government shutdown

Lawmakers dismiss fresh fears of another government shutdown

Congress is preparing another stopgap funding measure to avert a shutdown later this month after little progress on spending negotiations, particularly regarding President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE’s border wall.

The preparations for meeting a Nov. 21 deadline come amid increased tensions following Trump’s refusal on Sunday to rule out a shutdown. But key lawmakers said they are skeptical the president would trigger another lapse in funding after the record 35-day shutdown earlier this year yielded little in return for the White House.

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"I don't think there'll be a shutdown," said Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordEthics experts ask Senate to investigate Graham's probe of mail-in voting The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a local television interview Monday. "We have an initial deadline of the 21st of November, but if we don't hit that then we'll get an extension on top of that.” 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) also dismissed the likelihood of another shutdown, arguing Republicans would gain little from it.

“I do think that they learned a lesson from the last shutdown since it didn’t do them very well,” Pelosi said in a Bloomberg News interview Friday.

In the partial shutdown that lasted from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25, Trump had sought $5 billion in border wall funding. Congress later agreed to provide only $1.375 billion for a limited set of barriers in the deal that reopened the government.

Still, Trump’s decision to declare a state of emergency in order to shift billions of dollars from existing accounts toward his wall has complicated the latest round of spending negotiations, as Democrats seek to block him from taking similar actions this time around.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGraham: Trump should attend Biden inauguration 'if' Biden wins As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony MORE (R-W.Va.), whose Appropriations subcommittee oversees funding that would affect the wall, said there has been little progress in identifying a way to satisfy both sides on the issue. 

“The president is standing firm on a $5 billion number at this point,” she said last week.

Congress passed an 8-week stopgap measure in late September to avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

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Trump sparked new worries on Sunday when he told reporters he “wouldn’t commit to anything” when asked if he would ensure a government shutdown is avoided later this month. 

"It depends on what the negotiation is," he said. 

Those remarks came less than a week after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-N.Y.) raised the specter of Trump initiating a shutdown to distract from the impeachment inquiry.

”I hope and pray he won't want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment,” Schumer said. “It's very worrisome to me.”

Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year Incoming Congress looks more like America Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint MORE (R-Ala.) have both indicated that they expect a new stopgap measure to extend into February or March, though they have yet to finalize an agreement.

Another factor is the House’s advancing impeachment inquiry against Trump, which could lead to a Senate trial in the coming months. Shelby has said impeachment and a subsequent trial would likely distract from the business of passing spending bills and necessitate a longer timeline for a stopgap this month. 

But on Thursday, he floated the possibility of a shorter time frame, before the end of December, for passing a continuing resolution. 

“I would like that because we could finish our business,” he said.

One thing lawmakers appear united against is the possibility of a continuing resolution that would keep current funding levels in place through Sept. 30, an option the White House had floated earlier in the year. 

“Our highest priority should be keeping the government functioning and the Defense Department fully funded,” Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Bottom line GOP women's group rolls out six-figure campaign for Ernst MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday. 

“We cannot afford to short-change our troops or create unnecessary uncertainty for the Department of Defense,” she added in a joint statement decrying the possibility of a yearlong extension issued alongside Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackOn The Money: Trump gambles with new stimulus strategy | Trump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules | Long-term jobless figures rise, underscoring economic pain Womack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Ex-CBO director calls for more than trillion in coronavirus stimulus spending MORE (Ark.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.

A yearlong continuing resolution would prevent an agreed-upon, multibillion-dollar increase in both defense and domestic funding, and prevent government agencies from embarking on a bevvy of new programs.

When it comes to a potential shutdown, however, Trump is the wild card.

The last shutdown began when he did a last-minute about-face on a spending deal set for a vote in what was then the GOP-controlled House. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Trump's NATO ambassador pledges 'seamless' transition to Biden administration MORE (R-Texas) on Monday acknowledged that things this time around could shift toward a shutdown given the importance of the wall to Trump and the pending impeachment.

“I think it's unlikely but, you know, in this political environment I guess anything can happen," he said.

Democrats have pushed their GOP colleagues to negotiate on how the overall set of funds will be split up among the 12 annual spending bills, an issue that cannot be resolved until the wall issue is resolved.

“The critical next step is to complete negotiations on subcommittee allocations, allowing our subcommittee chairs to conference individual bills,” Lowey said last week. “To reach agreement on allocations, Senate Republicans must drop their insistence on funding a wasteful wall at the expense of critical domestic programs.” 

Shelby and Lowey have resumed talks on the allocations, and those talks have escalated to the leadership level.

Pelosi said she was engaged in talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Ky.) over the issues.

“Let’s see what we can get accomplished,” she said on Friday.

Jordain Carney contributed.