Congress faces a deadline of midnight on Friday to pass a spending bill and avoid a partial government shutdown. At the moment, Republicans and Democrats remain billions apart from agreeing on a spending package that could approach $1.5 trillion.
Domestic spending disputes are the sticking point of negotiations, keeping the parties separated by about $26 billion, according to Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Republicans argue the current Democratic-controlled Congress has already spent too much on measures such as pandemic relief and climate change initiatives and not enough on defense spending.
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“Our commander-in-chief and his party have spent huge sums on domestic priorities outside the normal appropriations process without a penny for the Defense Department,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Obviously, we won’t allow them to now hijack the government funding process, too, and take our troops hostage for even more liberal spending.”
Democrats have countered by saying the spending was necessary to help the country weather the fallout from COVID-19. In his own address to the floor, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., argued that legislation including the Inflation Reduction Act should not mean less domestic spending going forward.
“Those bills were meant to get us out of the pandemic, get the nation healthy and get our economy back on track, and I believe they are accomplishing that goal. They were not meant to fund the basic functions of the American government in fiscal year 2023,” Leahy said Thursday.
If spending lapses, a partial government shutdown would ensue. National parks would close to visitors, many federal offices would shutter, and several non-essential government services would be temporarily suspended. But Social Security payments would continue to be processed, post offices would stay open and federal workers considered vital to the mission of keeping the country safe and secure would remain on the job.
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After threatening last week to introduce their own proposed budget on Monday, Leahy and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., have since backed down, with enough progress being made during weekend negotiations, they announced Sunday.
If agreement is not reached by the end of this week, a temporary extension to give more time for negotiations is expected.
The extension could be as short as a week, or as long as a year. Democrats want to pass the new spending bill before a new Congress comes into power Jan. 3 when Republicans once again will be in charge of the House.
Story Credit: usatoday.com