October 22, 2020

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House moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks

House Democrats are aiming for a vote Tuesday evening on legislation to avert a government shutdown after rekindling talks with Republicans and the Trump administration over disputed farm assistance.

The House was originally slated to vote Tuesday afternoon on legislation advanced solely by Democrats, but multiple aides said those plans were temporarily put on hold as bipartisan talks resumed over aid for farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as well as nutrition assistance for children in low-income families.

Lawmakers are running up against a tight deadline, with just eight days left before current federal funding expires. The government would shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill before then.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWhite House opposes House energy bill as Democrats promise climate action This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg’s seat upends Congress’s agenda House Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill MORE (D-Md.) said the two sides are ”close” to a deal on government funding and could vote on an amended bill as soon as Tuesday night.

“I’m hopeful that we may be able to move it tonight,” Hoyer told reporters, noting that ”if we have a deal and people want to cooperate, it won’t be that late.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally CDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike MORE (D-Calif.) also said Tuesday afternoon that Democrats would have an announcement “soon.”

Guidance from Hoyer’s office on the House floor schedule advised lawmakers that a vote on the stopgap bill is expected on Tuesday.

House Democrats introduced legislation on Monday that would extend current government funding through Dec. 11, but it did not include a provision requested by the White House to ensure farm aid payments continue flowing through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which has a borrowing limit of $30 billion.

The Trump administration has made billions available for farmers — a key constituency in the president’s base — amid the pandemic as well as to buffer the impact of the trade wars with China.

Democrats have been opposed to including the CCC funding in the stopgap spending bill, arguing that it amounts to a “political slush fund” to soften the impact of the president’s trade policies.

Republicans bashed the introduction of House Democrats’ bill on Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: GOP will confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight MORE (R-Ky.) tweeting that “this is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America.”

“This is a really big issue in farm country and there are both Democrats and Republicans who are farmers. I’m hoping we can get that worked out and go forward,” McConnell told reporters.

Also at issue in the spending talks is an extension of a program created by a coronavirus relief measure earlier this year to ensure that children who normally receive free or reduced-cost meals at school still have access while schools are closed for in-person instruction due to the pandemic.

Both sides have strong incentives to avoid a damaging shutdown a month before the November elections and in the midst of a major public health crisis.

Republicans are also eager to focus on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgGraham: GOP will confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight MORE on Friday.

Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to move forward with confirming Ginsburg’s replacement just weeks before Election Day. President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE has said that he plans to announce his nominee on Saturday, saying he intends to pick a woman for the position.

House Democratic leaders had also faced pushback from some of their own members about the lack of farm aid in their legislation.

Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneEric Idle threatens to sue GOP committee over use of Monty Python song in ad US Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats House Democrats target Midwestern GOP seats MORE (D-Iowa), a first-term lawmaker in a competitive district, called on congressional leadership to include the farm aid in the stopgap spending bill.

“I am deeply frustrated that once again Washington is playing games with the vital aid that Iowa’s farmers need as they continue to struggle with the long-term effects of a public health crisis, an economic downturn, a trade war, and recent natural disasters,” Axne said in a statement. “In the midst of a national public health crisis and recession, the last thing Congress should do is allow the government to shut down – but before that deadline I urge leaders in the House to reverse course and include this vital aid.”

Despite Democrats initially opting to go it alone with their own bill on Monday, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSouthwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid Airline CEOs plead with Washington as layoffs loom Trump reacts to Ginsburg’s death: ‘An amazing woman who led an amazing life’ MORE expressed optimism on Tuesday morning about reaching a resolution to avoid a shutdown.

“It appears that we’ll be able to make a deal and keep the government open there,” Meadows said during a Fox Business interview.

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