Congress will soon be forced to debate yet another short-term, stopgap bill to keep the government open, not because a budget deal can’t be reached, but because lawmakers haven’t left enough time to reach one.
The House and Senate have already left town for Thanksgiving. And once they return, both chambers are in session concurrently for just four days — Dec. 10 through Dec. 13 — before Congress adjourns again for the holiday recess.
Simply put, there won’t be enough time for budget negotiators to solidify the details of an agreement that sets spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015 ““ much less sell it to their respective caucuses ““ before a Dec. 13 deadline.
But that’s not the only deadline being threatened by Congress’s vacation schedule. Funding for the federal government expires Jan. 15. So if House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., fail, as expected, to reach agreement by Dec. 13, lawmakers will return to Washington the week of Jan. 6 staring down another government shutdown, with only about a week to do something about it.
All told, the two chambers of Congress have scheduled just 10 days in session together between Nov. 22 and Jan. 15, out of a possible 51 days, not counting Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
That’s why House Republicans, before leaving town for Thanksgiving, began plotting to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Jan. 15, when the current CR is set to expire.
The likelihood of passing a short-term CR is high, according to a House leadership aide. “But no decision has been made as to whether we do it before we leave [on Dec. 13] or when we get back [on Jan. 7],” the aide said.
Regardless of timing, lawmakers say the most likely scenario is the House passing a three-month CR that funds the government through April 15. “You will see a 90-day CR happen,” one House Republican, who asked not to be identified so he could speak frankly about strategy, said last week.
The preference among GOP lawmakers is to pass the short-term CR prior to leaving town on Dec. 13. That way, if talk of another government shutdown arises over recess, the House GOP could argue it acted preemptively to keep the government open before heading home for the holidays.
There’s no guarantee that Congress would approve any such short-term funding bill, because it would likely lock in a second round of sequester cuts that members of both parties are hoping to avoid.
If approved, however, the CR could buy Ryan and Murray more time to iron out the details of a long-term budget deal that replaces those sequester cuts with a mix of revenues and targeted spending cuts.
Regardless of whether a budget agreement is reached, it’s unclear why Congress, in ending October’s 16-day government shutdown, set two deadlines that were threatened by its holiday vacation schedule.
- 1 Hillary Clinton Will Win the Nomination, But Then What?
- 2 Bernie Sanders Is a Loud, Stubborn Socialist. Republicans Like Him Anyway.
- 3 How Politics Breaks Our Brains, and How We Can Put Them Back Together
- 4 The Pen, Phone, and Stray Voltage
- 5 Divided GOP Ponders Way Forward on Criminal Justice Reform
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.