Congress, White House Appear on a Path to Temporarily Avoid Shutdown

The two sides have yet to reach an agreement on the length of a stopgap bill.

Lawmakers and the White House are advancing talks toward agreement on a stopgap funding bill that would avoid a shutdown in October, extending funding for agencies until at least after the Nov. 3 election. 

With just weeks until current funding for all federal agencies expires on Sept. 30, lawmakers have conceded that a continuing resolution that keeps the government funded at fiscal 2020 levels will be necessary. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have agreed to pursue a “clean” CR, according to multiple reports, rather than attaching any other provisions to the spending bill. 

The agreement appears to separate the CR negotiations from talks regarding a new relief package aimed at easing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, which lawmakers had previously floated lumping together in a single bill. Senate Republicans, the White House and House Democrats remain far divided on what such a package should look like, so putting those issues on distinct tracks significantly reduces the odds of a shutdown. 

The House has passed 10 of the 12 annual spending bills, but those were agreed to largely without Republican support. The Senate has yet to approve any of its bills, even at the committee level. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., recently acknowledged in a letter to colleagues that a stopgap bill would be necessary. 

“At this rate, it is likely that we will have to pass a continuing resolution to keep government open past the end of this fiscal year,” Hoyer said. “While that is not ideal, the House will do its job to avert a shutdown that would only further damage our economy.”

Lawmakers and the White House must still determine the length of any spending bill. Republicans are reportedly pushing an agreement that would fund agencies through early December, thereby giving them one more opportunity to control appropriations even if they were to lose the White House or the Senate majority. Democrats have yet to back such an approach, and could push for a longer-term deal. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Thursday the administration's approach to funding had been "discussed internally." 

“We do believe that we'll be able to get funding to avoid a shutdown,” McEnany said.