Congress fumbles for shutdown remedy ahead of Friday deadline

While Democrats have proposed keeping the government funded until sometime in January, Republicans are pushing for a longer stopgap. They argue that the two parties will need more time to strike a sweeping funding deal that updates spending levels for the Pentagon and every domestic agency of the federal government.

“The question is not January … or February, or even March,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his party’s top appropriator in the Senate. “I think the real question is: When do we sit down and talk substantively?”

A Senate GOP aide said Tuesday afternoon that minority party leaders are seeking “an appropriate amount of time” to work through cross-party negotiations on a broader funding package. Republicans say those talks will take longer than usual this year, considering Democrats are seeking historic increases in non-defense spending and will not cede upfront to GOP demands — which include stipulations such as including the Hyde amendment, a Republican-led policy that bans federal funding being used to perform abortions.

“For success in the long run, [a stopgap] that gives sufficient leeway is important in the short term,” the Republican aide said.

Setting aside that dispute over the funding patch’s length, Democrats and Republicans are still at loggerheads over what exceptions will be included in the bill. Leaders have discussed several so-called “anomalies,” including adding funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, Afghan resettlement efforts and to increase pay for congressional staff. The legislation could also include stipulations to prevent cuts to programs like Medicare and farm subsidies.

Republican leaders have for weeks been considering how to negotiate the next spending patch, as Democrats publicly called on them to make a counteroffer to their proposed funding bills. The GOP has threatened to ultimately force Democrats into a “full-year” stopgap if the majority party doesn’t cave to a slew of Republican funding demands before broader negotiations even begin.

“We’re not going to talk substantively with them about moving the bill, not just a CR, until they get serious about it,” Shelby said this week.

Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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