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Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week

Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week
© Greg Nash

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) signaled on Tuesday that negotiators are unlikely to get a government funding deal this week as talks appear poised to go down to the wire.

Shelby didn't rule out that lawmakers would be able to reach an agreement this week but acknowledged that it would be "hard" as they try to iron out a slew of policy fights within the mammoth package. 

"It would be hard. It's not impossible, but it would be difficult," Shelby said. 

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Congress has until Dec. 11 to pass either an omnibus, which would include all 12 of the fiscal 2021 funding bills, or a continuing resolution (CR) that continues fiscal 2020 spending levels. Shelby, tipping his hand to the likelihood that Congress brushes up against that deadline, predicted that lawmakers would still be in Washington for another couple of weeks. 

Shelby said on Tuesday that negotiators have until Dec. 9, two days before the deadline, to decide if they will need a CR. If they are close to a deal, the stopgap bill could be for a matter of days to give them enough time to finalize the agreement. If they are not, it's likely to be longer. 

"We haven't reached a deal on Dec. 9, you know what happens. Got to do a CR. I would hope that if we get to that point and we're about to close the deal, we can do it ... day to day," Shelby said.

Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees and members of leadership have been holding behind-the-scenes talks as they try to reach a deal on a mammoth funding package. 

They agreed to top-line figures for the 12 individual fiscal 2021 funding bills, which would be included in an omnibus, late last month. 

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Part of the bill appears to be near completion. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda MORE (R-Mo.) — who chairs the labor, health and education subcommittee — said they were close to closing out his part of the bill. 

"I think we are down to only discussing report language with the full committee help. We are going to close that out. The four members House and Senate have worked through that bill over the last couple of weeks now, and I think we are getting to a good place there," he said.

But lawmakers are still trying to work out agreements on areas like border barrier funding and veterans health care — two perennial sticking points in government funding bills. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Biden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he also expected any coronavirus relief that would pass this year to ride on the government funding bill. 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (D-Vt.), Shelby's Democratic counterpart, said on Tuesday that they had worked out "most things" and argued that Republicans should settle the difference with amendment votes. 

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"Agree to two or three amendments aside, maybe a one-hour time limit, two-hour, whatever. I said, you guys have nothing to lose. You’re in the majority. Bring them up that way. Vote them up or down," Leahy said of his discussions with Shelby.

In addition to talks among lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDivide and conquer or unite and prosper Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday Roe is not enough: Why Black women want an end to the Hyde Amendment MORE (D-Calif.) spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE

"The Secretary and I spoke today on the omnibus and I laid out the bipartisan progress that Chairman Shelby and Chairwoman [Nita] Lowey [D-N.Y.] have made. I relayed my hope that the Administration would support this bipartisan path," she said.