House prepares short-term bill keeping government open
WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Democrat unveiled compromise legislation Monday that would keep the government functioning through March 11 and give lawmakers more time to finish overdue spending bills for this year.
Congressional approval in the coming days, which was expected, would avert a federal shutdown when temporary funding expires the night of Feb. 18. A House vote was planned for Tuesday, while the Senate’s schedule was unclear.
“We are close to reaching a framework government funding agreement,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement about bipartisan talks over bills covering this year’s agency budgets. “But we will need additional time to complete the legislation in full.”
The short-term bill would continue last year’s spending levels. But it includes $350 million for the military to drain fuel from huge underground storage tanks in Hawaii, near Pearl Harbor, that have been blamed for contaminating local drinking water. Since November, around 1,000 people have complained about water that smells like fuel or have said they’ve become ill.
Unlike some years, neither party is angling toward a political showdown that would precipitate an election-year shuttering of government.
Democrats controlling the White House and Congress want to show voters they can govern effectively. Republicans hoping to win House and Senate majorities in November’s elections don’t want distractions from inflation, the persistent pandemic and other issues.
The federal fiscal year runs through Sept. 30. With none of the 12 annual spending bills completed, the government is now in its fifth month of running at spending levels approved during President Donald Trump’s last months in office.
Negotiators have been trying to work out overall spending levels for defense and domestic programs so they can begin writing detailed bills. They’re also bargaining over policy provisions, such as long-running restrictions on using federal money to pay for abortions.
“We’re close, but we haven’t concluded it yet,” Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said of talks on overall spending targets.
Their goal is to finish all 12 spending measures and send them to President Joe Biden for his signature by March 11.
Lawmakers are trying to finish the latest stop-gap bill early because the House leaves later this week for a recess of more than two weeks. The Senate plans to be in session for the next two weeks before taking a week off.