Shutdown clash looms after Democrats unveil spending bill

By Rebecca Kheel

House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending measure Monday to keep the government open past next week — but it’s already running into opposition from Republicans, raising the odds for a pre-election government shutdown.

The continuing resolution (CR) introduced Monday would fund the government through Dec. 11 after current funding expires Sept. 30.

But the bill does not contain a provision requested by the White House to provide aid for farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Republicans quickly lined up to bash the Democrats’ bill, increasing the odds of a partisan showdown mere weeks before Election Day. Both sides previously expected a relatively simple extension of funding.

“House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted.

A senior administration official said it’s unlikely the president signs the funding bill should it pass both chambers without the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) provision.

“[The odds are] very low. CCC is a big deal and they have nothing,” the official told The Hill.

But Democrats are steadfastly opposed to adding the funding requested by the White House to the stopgap bill, arguing the $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by the House in May includes funds for farmers.

“What the Trump administration wanted added to the clean CR wasn’t help for farmers – it was more than $20 billion more taxpayer dollars that the Trump Administration views as a bottomless, unaccountable political slush fund,” a senior Democratic aide said.

While the two parties remain at odds over the farm relief, they did manage to reach consensus on the Dec. 11 expiration date for the stopgap bill. Republicans had pushed for a December end date to carry funding through the elections, while some Democrats had pushed for a stopgap bill lasting into February that could be more advantageous if their party wins the Senate or the White House.

For defense: The December end-date should somewhat assuage the Pentagon, which in past years has argued against lengthy CRs.

House Democrats’ CR also contains a so-called anomaly to allow the Navy to buy the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

Typically, CRs bar any changes to existing funding, including preventing new purchases.

But the CR released Monday would set aside $1.6 billion so the Navy “may enter into a contract, beginning with fiscal year 2021, for the procurement of up to two Columbia class submarines.” It also grants the Navy authority to incrementally fund the subs.

The CR would also extend an authority that was granted in the coronavirus relief bill known as the CARES Act that allows the Pentagon to reimburse contractors for delays and other added costs due to the pandemic.

The authority is set to expire next week, but would be extended for the length of the CR through Dec. 11.

The bill does not include two other defense-related exceptions the White House requested: flexibility for Space Force funding and authority to start work on the submarine-launched W93 nuclear warhead.

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