Architect of the Capitol

Senate Puts Finishing Touches on Bill to Avoid a Shutdown

Lawmakers are working toward a deal to keep the government open past Sept. 30.

By the rules that guide it, the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives is usu­ally able to move bills faster than the “cool­ing sau­cer” Sen­ate. But with the House be­set by di­vi­sions in its con­trolling Re­pub­lic­an Party, the Sen­ate has led the ef­fort to craft and pass the le­gis­la­tion that will avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down by the end of this month. And it looks like it will do so with time to spare.

Sen­ate lead­ers and ap­pro­pri­at­ors have spent the week­end try­ing to tie up the loose ends of a short-term bill that will fund the gov­ern­ment to Dec. 9. Lead­er­ship aides ex­pect to pass the pack­age this week, po­ten­tially al­low­ing vul­ner­able Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bent sen­at­ors to go home a week earli­er than ex­pec­ted and cam­paign.

Sev­en months after the pres­id­ent re­ques­ted $1.9 bil­lion to fight the spread of the birth de­fect caus­ing the Zika vir­us, Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers are still at­tempt­ing to find a com­prom­ise that will cost ap­prox­im­ately $1.1 bil­lion. Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­pec­ted to drop con­tro­ver­sial lan­guage that would pre­vent a small por­tion of that money from go­ing to Pu­erto Rico’s Planned Par­ent­hood af­fil­i­ate.

At least three oth­er stick­ing points re­main. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, busi­ness groups, Demo­crats, and Re­pub­lic­ans have pushed to al­low the Ex­port-Im­port bank to fin­ance $10 mil­lion-plus deals again over the ob­jec­tions of some con­ser­vat­ives and Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee chair­man Richard Shelby. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has also re­ques­ted $2.6 bil­lion to help Louisi­ana after dev­ast­at­ing floods; some Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al aides be­lieve that a por­tion of that fund­ing will get in­cluded in a fi­nal deal. And there have also been con­cerns from Sen. Ted Cruz and oth­er con­ser­vat­ives over a U.S. group trans­fer­ring con­trol over In­ter­net do­mains to an in­ter­na­tion­al body.

As Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an ne­go­ti­at­ors passed pa­per back and forth last week, the dif­fer­ences were so great that Sen. Dick Durbin told re­port­ers that he doubted the Sen­ate would be able to re­solve them by mid-week. But some Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al aides are privately more op­tim­ist­ic.

The House, mean­while, is wait­ing to see what the Sen­ate will pro­duce. Al­though some Re­pub­lic­ans want to use the CR as a lever­age point to block Syr­i­an refugees, House GOP lead­ers and much of the con­fer­ence will likely ap­prove any reas­on­able pack­age that the Sen­ate sends over. Wheth­er they do so this week or next is yet to be de­term­ined.

On the House floor, the fo­cus will turn to Ir­an. Lead­ers will bring to the floor le­gis­la­tion that seeks to bring more trans­par­ency to the White House’s deal­ings with Tehran on the heels of news that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sent $400 mil­lion owed in a leg­al set­tle­ment to the Middle East­ern state as part of a pris­on­er swap. Re­pub­lic­ans say it was a ransom pay­ment.

IRS Com­mis­sion­er John Koskin­en will be in the hot seat as well, as he may testi­fy be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee about the agency’s al­leged tar­get­ing of con­ser­vat­ive groups. The hear­ing is part of a deal between Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Bob Good­latte and the House Free­dom Caucus. In­stead of bring­ing a priv­ileged mo­tion call­ing for Koskin­en’s im­peach­ment, the caucus struck a deal with Good­latte to hold a hear­ing on the mat­ter.

Click here to read more about what is on tap on Capitol Hill this week. 

Jason PlautzSam BakerAlex Brown and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.