Democrats Want Short-Term Spending Bill to Stave Off Shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the government is headed for another shutdown unless lawmakers change course. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the government is headed for another shutdown unless lawmakers change course. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Federal agencies could be heading for yet another short-term, stopgap measure to start off the fiscal year in October, as signaled by the Democratic leader in the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters his party would accept a continuing resolution through Christmas, but not into 2017. Such a measure would avoid a government shutdown come Oct. 1 by funding agencies at their current levels for the length of time the CR is in place.

Agencies have required at least some form of a CR every year since 1997. Congress has a long way to go to pass each of the 12 annual appropriations bills, and an increasingly short timeframe to complete them. Before lawmakers went on recess in mid-July, just one of measures had gone through the conference committee process. Even that bill, which set funding for military construction and veterans affairs, failed to clear the Senate.

The Senate has made more progress than the House, with most of its bills winning bipartisan support. Still, the House and Senate remain far apart, and with the Oct. 1 deadline looming, a stopgap measure appears inevitable.

Reid warned that on the current trajectory, things could end up much worse for federal agencies than a funding status quo.

Unless the Senate “changes course,” he said, “we’re headed straight for another government shutdown.” He added Republicans “should be aware” Democrats will not vote for any measure that funds agencies past December.

Stephanie Penn, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, declined to comment on Reid’s threats, saying only that lawmakers would discuss the matter when they return from recess next week.

Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said all funding details are still up for negotiation, but acknowledged a short-term measure was likely.

“The duration and content of a CR are under discussion,” Gallegos said, “with the goal to provide time to complete FY2017 appropriations ‎work while providing for the orderly continuation of the government.”

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