(Bloomberg) -- Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over the annual government spending bill for fiscal 2023, with just days to go before a Dec. 16 government shutdown deadline.
Lawmakers are leaving Washington on Thursday for a long weekend without an agreement on a top-line figure for the appropriations package to fund government operations. The lead Republican negotiator, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, said the two sides were about $26 billion apart out of overall spending of roughly $1.7 trillion.
Democrats are attempting to break the logjam by releasing their own draft on Monday, but most lawmakers expect Congress will be forced to pass a one-week extension of current spending levels to give both sides a few more days to cut a deal. In addition to funding government operations, lawmakers plan to use the bill to provide aid to Ukraine. The White House has requested $38 billion and leaders in both parties are generally supportive of that amount.
“We firmly believe that this bill can and should earn the votes of at least 10 Republican senators,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy said.
But Shelby and Texas Representative Kay Granger, the lead House Republican appropriator, dismissed the idea. “That bill is dead before it even gets started,” Shelby told reporters, adding that, “There are still serious negotiations going on.”
There’s urgency on the part of Democrats and some Republicans to complete the bill before the term of the current Congress expires at the beginning of January and there have been threats to keep Congress working over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays if necessary. Democrats particularly want to avoid leaving the spending decisions until the new year, when Republicans will take control of the House.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who is likely to be the speaker in the new Congress, has called for a short term extension into 2023, which would give Republicans more leverage as they push cuts in domestic spending and dialing back aid to Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Congress is “running out of time” and threatened to back another stop-gap extension into early next year unless Democrats drop their demands for more domestic spending. But Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said that is a bad idea.
“I think it’s the worst thing we could do to a newly formed Republican House is send them a CR into early in the year,” Blunt said. “I just don’t think they’ll be ready for it.”
Democrats are countering by threatening to bring to a vote a full-year stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, freezing all spending levels into place until Oct. 1 if Republicans won’t meet their demands.
“A one-year CR is on the table,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro said Thursday.
The stalemate on the spending bill leaves the fate of other legislation lawmakers hope to attach to the package up in the air. Among these are bills overhauling how Electoral College votes are certified, opening the banking system to marijuana transactions and reviving expired tax breaks for corporations.
On taxes, the fate of research and development and private equity tax breaks remain mired in a dispute over expanding the child tax credit. Even if an omnibus spending bill comes together, it is not yet clear if the tax bill will ride on it.
Shelby has ruled out attaching energy permitting changes championed by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to the package, saying it doesn’t have the votes.
Shelby, who is retiring, says he wants to cap his decades long career with a full spending package, and that he remains hopeful of getting the job done.
“The sense of urgency should increase as the clock ticks,” he said.
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