By midnight on Friday, Congress must fund the federal government — and possibly address a looming debt default — to avoid a government shutdown.
Democratic leaders are attempting to juggle several objectives in the coming days — namely, passing the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, approving the National Defense Authorization Act, and raising or suspending the debt ceiling.
The House could vote as early as Wednesday to avert a shutdown, sending the stopgap measure to the Senate. While leaders have yet to settle on an end date, they are mulling mid to late January. That span would buy top lawmakers and the White House less than two months to hash out a bipartisan deal, which would include revamped spending totals for the military and all the other federal agencies that have been running on autopilot since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1.
Democrats had originally eyed a short-term funding fix that would expire before the holidays, hoping to keep the pressure on Republicans to negotiate a broader funding deal before Christmas. But GOP leaders have shown no inclination to participate in those talks, leveraging the threat of sticking Democrats with non-defense funding levels established when Donald Trump was president.
CNBC reported, however, that lawmakers are likely to reach a deal:
Congressional staff and Washington policy analysts who spoke to CNBC on Monday sounded hopeful about Congress’ chances to pass a temporary spending plan known as a continuing resolution. Failing to pass legislation before the end of Friday could trigger furloughs of government workers and a lapse in some federal services.
As of noon ET Monday, Democrats and Republicans appeared to be coalescing around a bill that would fund the government through late January or early February, a person familiar with the discussions told CNBC. The chief negotiators are confident they can reach a deal to avoid a shutdown before time runs out, another aide said.
Before Thanksgiving, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the debt ceiling — temporarily suspended by Congress in 2019 — must be raised by December 15.
“While I have a high degree of confidence that Treasury will be able to finance the U.S. government through December 15 and complete the Highway Trust Fund investment, there are scenarios in which Treasury would be left with insufficient remaining resources to continue to finance the operations of the U.S. government beyond this date,” she warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “As the federal government’s cash flow is subject to unavoidable variability, I will continue to update Congress as more information becomes available.”
Meanwhile, the current version of the National Defense Authorization Act — which would fund the Department of Defense in 2022 — has generated controversy due to its potential mandate of a draft for women.
“It is wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) argued earlier this month. “Our country is extremely grateful for the brave women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces.”
“They have played a vital role in defending America at every point in our nation’s history,” he continued. “But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be compelled to do so.”