Congress Scrambles as Shutdown Date Looms

Congress Scrambles as Shutdown Date Looms

Wednesday night, Senators reached a deal to speed up consideration of the House Continuing Resolution, as fears grow that Congress may run out of time to avoid a government shutdown. If Congress doesn’t pass some kind of continuing appropriation by Tuesday, non-essential government services would stop. Given the often arduous process to pass legislation through both chambers, it is becoming more likely that they will run out of time. 

The deal to speed up consideration in the Senate means that the chamber can finish its work on the CR by Saturday. The House would then have just 2 days to agree to the Senate changes or try to amend and send back to the Senate. The House has the ability to pass legislation quickly, if it wants. The Senate does not, unless it has unanimous agreement. If the House alters the Senate language and sends it back, it is probable that the government would shut down for at least a few days, while the Senate worked through its procedures. 

The Senate will hold its final cloture vote on Friday, before adopting amendments. The vote requires 60 votes and, if successful, would pave the way for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reinstate ObamaCare funding with a simply majority vote. 

Meanwhile, some House lawmakers are discussing passing a new CR that would fund the government for just one week. Presumably, this would provide enough time for the House and Senate to negotiate the longer term CR currently under consideration in the Senate. 

The picture is further clouded because President Obama still hasn’t met or talked with Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid. Each chamber is operating in its own vacuum. 

The GOP is terrified it will get blamed for a government shutdown, even if it lasts just a few days. As a result, the House will be under enormous pressure to pass whatever comes out of the Senate this weekend.