McConnell floats short-term spending bill amid ‘significant impasse’

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said a stopgap funding deal that would fund the government until January might be necessary as talks on a long-term spending package drag on.

“We’re at a pretty significant impasse,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “Time is ticking. We have not been able to agree on a top line yet, and I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that we might need to do a short-term CR into early next year,” McConnell continued, using the shorthand for continuing resolution.

“We are running out of time, and that might be the only option left that we could agree to pursue,” McConnell said.

The comments came a day after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on McConnell and Republicans to avoid striking a deal on an omnibus spending package during the lame-duck session and to wait until House Republicans retake the majority in January. McCarthy’s remarks also suggest that leaders should expect few House GOP members to jump on board to support an omnibus spending bill this month.

McConnell added that the immediate priority should be passing the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). A final NDAA bill was expected to be rolled out in recent days, but that release has been delayed as lawmakers haggle over remaining sticking points.

“We’re running out of time, and we don’t have agreements to do virtually anything,” McConnell said about the stalled talks on the omnibus and NDAA. “I’m dealing with the practical situation. … We’re running out of time. There’s only so much you can do with the time that’s left.”

Government funding is set to expire on Dec. 16. Negotiators have kicked around the idea of passing a one-week continuing resolution until Dec. 23 to give them more time to get an omnibus package and the NDAA wrapped up before the holidays.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the incoming House Democratic leader, argued shortly after that there’s still time to get an overall deal done that would avoid pushing the spending fight until next month.

“There’s still several weeks remaining in the calendar year, which is an eternity in Washington, D.C. It’s certainly a preliminary, premature observation that we have to move to a continuing resolution,” Jeffries told reporters. “That would undermine our ability to fully fund our domestic priorities as well as make sure that we have the strongest possible robust defense infrastructure.”

Leaders on both sides have struggled to reach a top-line figure for an omnibus spending bill, with Republicans pushing back against the Democratic effort to increase domestic social spending. GOP leaders argue Democrats achieved many of their goals within the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill. But some Republicans appear willing to back an omnibus because it would bring increases in defense spending and funds for Ukraine’s war against Russia.

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the GOP’s ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters he was still hopeful the two sides could reach an accord. Shelby and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), both of whom are retiring, had lunch with President Biden on Tuesday to discuss how to proceed.

“A lot of us want to get to ‘yes,’” Shelby told reporters on Tuesday, indicating there has not been a lot of movement on the top-line figure in recent days. “I’d think we’ve got a good chance to work this out before we leave here later this month, but we’ve got to do it. We haven’t gotten there yet.”

“There will be more of a sense of urgency as the days tick away,” Shelby said.

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