Congress could be in jeopardy of missing the February 18 shutdown deadline    

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Members of Congress have called for a renewed focus on the passing of a government budget bill, as the Feb. 18 stop gap deadline approaches. If an approved budget does not pass by the deadline, President Biden risks running the government on a year-long continuing resolution (CR) even with a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate.

While a shutdown remains unlikely, members of both parties from the Senate Appropriations Committee warns that if Congress continues to focus on Biden’s stalled Build Back Better (BBB) plan and blows past the mid-February deadline, it will mean the continued uncertainty of running the government on stopgap funding measures rather than a passed budget.

The Hill quotes Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, as saying, “I think the budget has to be next, to be honest. I want BBB to be done, but we have a narrow window to pass a budget, and I want to make sure we get a budget deal.” Murphy continued, “You have a limited window on a budget and you never know what’s going to happen in 2022. If we don’t get a budget now, there’s a chance President Biden will never do a budget with the Democratic Congress.” 

If Biden misses this window and is unable to pass a budget before the mid-term elections produce a Republican majority in either the House or Senate, or both, then Biden may never have a chance to put his stamp on the nation’s spending priorities. 

Negotiations between Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the panel, are reportedly ongoing. Based on numerous news outlets, there appear to be two major sticking points in the negotiations: 

  1. A disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over increased funding for domestic nondefense social programs compared to increased military funding.
  2. Disagreements over policy riders, in particular the “Hyde Amendment” that bans federal funding for abortions. 

Policy riders are a legislative procedure where an additional provision or other measure is added to a bill with little to no connection to the subject matter of the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said that there are two simple things that would be critical to keeping the appropriations talk on track:

Number one, Democrats will need to honor the long-standing bipartisan truce that provides parity for defense and nondefense spending growth. Number two, we must have agreement that we’re going to keep long-standing policy riders in and new poison pill riders out.

Additionally, a group of Republican Senators, led by Texas’ Chip Roy, has called for GOP leadership to withhold their support from any form of a spending bill if COVID-19 vaccine mandates remain in place. Roy told the New York Post that at least 10 GOP Senators are on board with the effort.

These warnings from both sides of the aisle have real political consequences for a president who faces a March 1 State of the Union Address with few “wins” to trumpet at the speech. The president was hoping to pass his BBB plan by February, a hope that now appears fleeting.