WASHINGTON — The House and Senate are rushing to vote Thursday on a short-term spending bill that would fund the government into early December, aiming to overcome a series of last-minute political snags that risk the potential for a shutdown.

The tight timeline leaves still leave lawmakers with just hours to spare before funding lapses for key federal agencies and operations, an outcome that Democrats have pledged to avoid given the potential for dire consequences during the coronavirus pandemic. If they don’t act, a government shutdown would commence on Friday.

The issues surfaced Wednesday in the hours after Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., unveiled a measure that sustains federal spending into early December while provisioning billions of dollars to respond to two recent hurricanes and assist Afghan refugees.

Republicans say they share a desire to stave off a government shutdown especially in the midst of a pandemic. But some GOP lawmakers raised concerns Wednesday about the measure that stalled its swift passage. Republicans have sought to secure money for Israel and its missile defense system, for example, and they also raised issues related to the process for vetting Afghan refugees newly coming to the United States.

“I’m hoping at least we can reach an agreement later today to move tomorrow,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the party’s chief vote counter, as he acknowledged the issues on the Republican side.

The Senate is expected to reach an agreement that allows the chamber to proceed, holding votes on amendments on those issues, according to an aide who requested anonymity to describe the plans because they aren’t yet finalized. If that happens, it would position the House to take action to adopt the measure on Thursday as well, averting a shutdown.


“We can approve this measure quickly, and send it to the House, so it can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow,” Schumer said in a speech to open debate Wednesday. “With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown.”

The proposal essentially would sustain federal agencies’ existing budgets until Dec. 3. At that point, Congress must either adopt another short-term fix, known as a continuing resolution, or take more decisive action to approve a set of appropriations bills that could boost agencies’ spending into 2022.

In the meantime, party lawmakers have found themselves locked in a partisan battle over another fiscal deadline – a need to raise the country’s debt ceiling before Oct. 18. That borrowing limit allows the government to issue debt to pay its bills. Failing to raise the debt limit could plunge the country into default because the government spends so much more money than it brings in through revenue. Experts believe a default would cause a financial calamity that could spark a U.S. recession and rattle global markets.

But Senate Republicans have blocked repeated Democratic efforts this week to raise the debt ceiling, including one bill that had coupled it with additional government funding. GOP lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have said they do not intend to shutter federal agencies – but rather seek to oppose Democrats as they pursue roughly $4 trillion in new spending initiatives sought by Biden.

“Bipartisanship isn’t a light-switch that Democrats can switch on when they need to borrow money and flip off when they want to spend money,” McConnell said on the chamber floor on Tuesday.

The Republicans’ opposition has angered Democrats, who argue they agreed to raise the debt ceiling even when now-former President Donald Trump pursued policies they disliked. In recent days, Schumer further has faulted Republicans for racking up some of the bills that the government still has to pay.

With roughly three weeks until the deadline, Republicans instead have prodded Democrats to use a particular legislative maneuver to advance it on their own. The process, known as reconciliation, would allow Democrats to address the issue while sidestepping GOP opposition – but it could take weeks and subject the party to uncomfortable political votes in the process.

Schumer in general has called the approach “risky,” as he has pilloried Republicans on the chamber floor for being the “party of default.” On Wednesday, he doubled down on his refusal to use reconciliation, calling it “uncharted waters” that could still lead to a default.

“Time is short, the danger is real,” Schumer said.

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