Finance

House to vote Wednesday on a weeklong stopgap to avoid government shutdown

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a stopgap measure to avert a government shutdown after current funding expires this Friday, an acknowledgment that negotiators need more time to reach a longer-term deal.

Democratic aides confirmed Monday that the stopgap is expected to last through Dec. 18.

House Democratic leaders initially hoped to wrap up work on an all-encompassing spending package, coronavirus economic relief and an annual defense policy bill by Friday and send members home in time to quarantine for two weeks before spending Christmas with their families.

Senators were less optimistic last week about getting all that work done so quickly.

“Will we do it by the ninth? I’d like [to] but probably not. There’s some challenges that have got to be dealt with,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said last Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pushed back a day later, insisting that “if we think it will not get done, it will not get done.”

In the end, House Democrats are now acknowledging that negotiators will need more time.

Hoyer expressed frustration on Monday that progress is moving slowly on a spending package and coronavirus relief.

“Not getting a deal is not on the table,” he told reporters in the Capitol.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, lamented the need for a stopgap.

“I think it’s stupid. We could have done this weeks ago,” he said.

Congressional leaders are leery of staying in session for much longer given the spike in COVID-19 cases nationally and among lawmakers.

Three House members tested positive for COVID-19 last week alone. And of the 35 lawmakers who have tested positive since March, about 40 percent have been within the last month.

Several other lawmakers have also had presumed cases or tested positive for antibodies.

The House is also expected to vote Tuesday on an annual defense policy bill that includes a provision to change the names of military bases that currently honor Confederate leaders, despite a veto threat from President Trump.

A deal on coronavirus relief has eluded congressional leaders since the summer. But with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising across the nation, lawmakers are under pressure to reach an agreement to extend expiring unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium measures as well as provide resources for distributing a vaccine.

—Updated at 3:41 p.m.

Tags Appropriations Budget Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump NDAA Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby Steny Hoyer

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