Congress eyes another stopgap spending bill as talks drag on


With government money poised to run out Friday, Congress is eyeing yet another short-term stopgap bill to keep agencies’ doors open while negotiators try to finalize a deal.

All sides say they are close, but the talks on 2021 spending have gotten wrapped up in a tougher conversation about coronavirus relief.

Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber, said the need for a stopgap bill to avoid a shutdown while negotiations finish is “looking like more of a real possibility.”

“I hope it wouldn’t be more than, you know, 24 or 48 hours,” he said. “I think I really think this is coming to a close, but as you all know once you get the agreement and drafting it up and, you know, the language matters and so I think it’s probably going to take a little bit of time to do that.”

Leaders figure on coupling the relief package with the full spending bill, for a $2 trillion-plus piece of legislation that will be presented to members with a take-it-or-leave-it strategy.

That approach is already drawing criticism.

A group of conservative Republicans wrote to President Trump on Wednesday urging him to veto any spending bill that reaches his desk that got approval of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Republicans complained that they won’t have had any opportunity to amend the package, and predicted it would mark a major expansion of spending.

“Your veto will send a resounding message to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to negotiate better budgets for the American people,” the lawmakers said.

Federal agencies have been running on stopgap money at fiscal year 2020 levels since Oct. 1, which is when fiscal year 2021 began.

Lawmakers had set a Dec. 11 deadline for getting a full-year bill done, but blew through that last week and instead passed a one-week extension of money. Now they’re butting up against that new deadline.

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