Government funding expires on Friday at midnight and as of yet the stopgap funding bill to keep the motor running has not yet been released, though the Senate has a procedural bill teed up to vote on Tuesday. Both the House and Senate are out Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah. The Senate comes back Tuesday, the House on Wednesday. So they’re cutting it very close on getting this thing down, so close that a very short shutdown—or lawmakers having to work though the upcoming weekend—isn’t off the table. With an election in 43 days, however, the threat of a longer shutdown is tiny.
There are wildcards out there, as always. The base bill, or continuing resolution (CR), is ready to go since it’s easy, just text saying the agencies get the same amount of funding they have been receiving until Dec. 16, the current end date for this stopgap bill. It’s all the extra stuff they have to fight over.
The usual suspects among Republicans—the Freedom Caucus and their counterparts in the Senate—have raised the usual hell about having a “clean” bill with no added stuff and having it run until later in January. They’re presuming at least one of the chambers will flip to Republican control and thus want the next CR to be negotiated on their terms. As usual, there aren’t really enough of them willing to shut down government just weeks before an election to make a difference in passing the bill.
There’s a lot more to negotiate in what’s going to be tacked on to that base funding bill. President Joe Biden initially requested $47.1 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine ($11.7 billion), COVID-19 and monkeypox response ($6 billion), natural disaster relief ($6.5 billion), and funding to shore up U.S. energy supplies ($2 billion). Those numbers have fluctuated, though, with the Ukraine offensive and a few brutal hurricanes. The White House has bumped its Ukraine request to $13.7 billion.
Disaster relief might have to be increased as the damage to Puerto Rico from Hurricane Fiona is assessed. Tropical Storm Ian is now Hurricane Ian and is forecasted to strike Florida by midday Thursday. Right now it’s intensifying, and the state is under an emergency declaration. It could definitely demand a bigger emergency funding need.
That would likely come at the expense of COVID-19 and monkeypox. Republicans have been opposing it from the get-go. “We just don’t think that’s necessary,” number two Senate Republican John Thune said earlier this month. “There’s still plenty of money still swirling around from previous Covid bills.”
The U.S. is still averaging about 400 COVID-19 deaths per day. There are about 30,000 people hospitalized with it, and several million are suffering from long COVID, with lasting health effects.
While that funding might be out, there could be some added to help in the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis; Afghan refugee resettlement; and to build up the heating assistance program for low-income families and seniors. Because winter is coming.
The big elephant in the room is the blow-hard from West Virginia, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. He’s still pushing his bill to help the fossil fuel industry rape the land more quickly and easily by changing the federal government’s permitting process. Democrats don’t like the bill. Republicans don’t like it. As of now, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer seems intent on helping Manchin get it in the bill. How that’s going to play out in the next four days is one of the two dramas of Congress this week.
The other is the Jan. 6 committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, which is potentially the committee’s last public, televised hearing.
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