Congress rushes to strike funding deal with government

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Congressional negotiators are moving quickly to try to finalize work on a broad package of funds to finance the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, though sticking points remain.

Lawmakers have about three weeks to finish crafting — and ideally pass — a bill to fund the government until September 30, having advanced the latest stopgap last week.

The bill, which extends funding through March 11, marked the third time Congress has had to pass an ongoing resolution to maintain government funding in fiscal year 2022. And while leaders have had struggling to reach a broader bipartisan agreement, negotiators hope this will be the last short-term solution.

“Oh my God, no”, senator. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBiden’s request for COVID-19 funds meets resistance from lawmakers Senate passes bill to avoid government shutdown (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said last week when asked about the prospect of a fourth funding band-aid. “Good God, no.”

Until just a few weeks ago, negotiators were struggling to break a months-long stalemate over key numbers, funding allocations and legislative riders dealing with thorny issues like abortion.

And while negotiators have made progress in recent weeks after top leaders announced a bipartisan framework agreement for an omnibus package, which would fund the government until September, those responsible for the takeover have made it clear that it there was still a lot of work to do.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBiden’s request for COVID-19 funds faces resistance from lawmakers Britt in new ad tells ‘boys in Washington’ to ‘stand up’ Trump meets with Alabama GOP Senate candidate Katie Boyd Britt MORE (Ala.), a ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill that if negotiators continue to work in a bipartisan fashion, Congress could finally put a bow on the package in early March. But nothing is final, he noted, until the legislation “is sealed and signed”.

A new omnibus package would allow the Democratic-led Congress and President BidenJoe BidenUS tells UN Russia has list of Ukrainians ‘to kill or send to camps’: report Latest satellite images show shift in Russian military activity near Ukraine Biden agrees to meet Putin ‘in principle’ if Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine MORE a major chance to shape government funding for the current fiscal year. Under the continuing resolution passed Thursday, funding levels are still set at those previously enacted under the Trump administration.

Democrats have already set out their wishes for a number of party-backed priorities in annual spending legislation, including for improved education, efforts to tackle climate change, improved healthcare health and affordable housing. And while Republicans may not agree with every item on their colleagues’ wish list, they are pushing for more funding in areas like defense.

Leahy said in remarks on Thursday that the agreed framework for the omnibus package would include the “largest increase in non-defence programs” seen in four years. But it remains to be seen what funding for those programs will look like, as leaders continue to keep spending details close to the waistcoat amid ongoing negotiations.

Pressed by Leahy’s comments soon after, Shelby told reporters last week “that’s the Democrats’ agenda,” while adding that Republicans are focused on national security.

“But, in anything bipartisan trying to get a bill through, we’re going to have to give and get, to get,” he added.

Last summer Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans scramble to stop Greitens in Missouri GOP senator faces challenge over Trump credentialsPictures of the Week: Ukraine, Super Bowl LVI and Penguins MORE (R-Ky.) warned that Republicans would block appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2022, which begins in October, in the absence of a broader bipartisan 50-50 Senate spending deal. But to strike a deal, he said there would need to be parity in the growth of defense and non-defense spending.

Days after Shelby announced the framework agreement earlier in February, appropriations officials said they worked all weekend on allocations for the subcommittees.

In a show of progress, senators confirmed last week that the 12 subcommittees had received new spending figures for fiscal year 2022, allowing each of the panels to make more progress on their slices of an omnibus package. .

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterWhite House Chief of Staff Tries to Inflate Concerns of Senate Democrats Democrats Try to Regroup Ahead of Tough November On The Money – GOP Senators Block Biden’s Fed Picks MORE (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, would not tell reporters what was allocated to his panel, but said “it’s better than [he] expected.”

“We were very happy,” he told The Hill, before adding that he believes his panel is on track to complete its work before the new deadline set in March.

Some panels will find it easier than others to finalize their portions in the coming weeks.

While some have said the Department of Veterans Affairs has been a sticking point in the talks, the senator. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanGOP senator faces challenge over Trump’s credentials These Senate seats are up for grabs in 2022 The Postal Service’s expansion into banking is misguided MORE (Ark.), a ranking Republican on the military construction, veterans, and related agencies appropriations subcommittee, said his panel had “pretty much moved all of these things in the right direction.”

“We really enjoy working with Senator [Martin] Heinrich (DN.M.) and his team, as well as our counterparts in the Chamber. Our teams have been working together for a while and so that makes things a lot easier,” Boozman told The Hill, while adding that at this point there aren’t many “major” hurdles to overcome. in the coming weeks.

But some subcommittees seem to have their work cut out for them.

On the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, both chair Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHillicon Valley – Senators introduce child online safety bill Senate Democrats pressure YouTube to remove ‘ghost gun’ videos Senate seeks solution as deadline for funding approach PLUS (D-Conn.) and ranking member Shelley MooreCapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Americans battle soaring prices Senator Capito tests positive for COVID-19 Lawmakers roll out Violence Against Women Act without ‘controversial’ provision MORE (RW.Va.) say they are still working to try to find common ground on issues like border wall funding.

“We are on a tight deadline. We’ve had a lot of conversations, both Murphy and I, so you know we’re working in good faith. It’s hard, maybe it’s the hardest,” Capito told The Hill on Thursday.

At the same time, top negotiators are asking more and more questions about additional COVID-19 funds amid reports that the Biden administration is considering billions in additional funds for vaccine and testing efforts, among other things.

But it’s unclear whether the planned spending omnibus will include such funding, which has prompted hesitation from some, especially after it took appropriation officials months to make meaningful progress on annual legislation in a fairly divided Senate.

“I’m in no rush to add anything. It took several months of negotiations to get to where we are, and I’m very reluctant to reopen it for anything else,” Leahy told reporters.

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