Congress no closer to funding government before shutdown deadline

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Washington — Congress is veering toward another shutdown, having made little progress in advancing bills to keep the government open since lawmakers narrowly avoided a lapse in funding almost six weeks ago.

The government is funded through Nov. 17, but the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-controlled House have yet to come to an agreement on how to keep agencies operating past that date.

"We certainly want to avoid a government shutdown," House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana said Tuesday.

But House Republicans have yet to unveil their plan for how to fund the government, having spent three weeks trying to elect a new House speaker after California Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted over the short-term bipartisan deal that averted a shutdown at the end of September.

Johnson admitted last week that there was a "growing recognition" that another short-term measure, known as a continuing resolution, is needed.

He laid out multiple options, including a "laddered" approach that would set different lengths of funding for individual appropriations bills.

House Speaker Mike Johnson makes his way to a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 7, 2023.  / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
House Speaker Mike Johnson makes his way to a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 7, 2023. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

"You would do one part of a subset of the bills by a December date and the rest of it by a January date," Johnson said Tuesday.

There were also discussions about a stopgap measure that would expire in January "with certain stipulations," he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, it was unclear how House Republicans would proceed. For the second time in a week, the House also canceled votes on two funding bills that lacked the support to pass, adding to the dysfunction.

House Democrats have said they want a "clean" continuing resolution, which would extend government funding at the previous year's levels, and say the "laddered" approach is a nonstarter.

"We'll see next week what we actually do," Republican Rep. John Duarte of California said Thursday. "A lot of it will have to do with, can we pass some clean appropriations bills and get the monkey business out of them."

Hard-right members who ousted McCarthy over the last stopgap measure when it didn't meet their demands might cut Johnson some slack given the quick turnaround since his election as speaker, but the lack of any spending cuts also risks upsetting them.

The Senate is expected to vote next week on a stopgap measure, though it's unclear how long its version would extend government funding. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the upper chamber would not pass any partisan legislation from the House.

Ellis Kim and Alejandro Alvarez contributed reporting. 

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