No stopgap deal yet; House Democrats prep fallback bill

Negotiations to avert a partial government shutdown in 10 days were at a standstill Monday morning.

House Democrats were planning to file their own version of a bill before the Rules Committee meets at 1 p.m. that would remove agriculture and nutrition policy riders that were in dispute late Friday. That decision wasn’t sitting well with Senate Republicans, however, increasing prospects for a legislative ping-pong match and sending an amended version back to the House close to the Sept. 30 deadline.

The House bill would preserve the Dec. 11 end date both parties had agreed to Friday, but would drop a $30 billion replenishment of Commodity Credit Corporation funds for farm payments, which the White House and congressional Republicans have sought. It would also drop a $2.7 billion extension of the expiring Pandemic EBT program sought by Democrats, which provides meals for children who would normally receive free or reduced-price lunches when schools are open.

Those provisions had been tentatively agreed to as part of a “deal in principle” on Friday, according to sources involved in the talks. But when word got around, some Democrats balked at what they viewed as insufficient food aid for low-income families compared to the generous funding for farmers and ranchers.

[Stopgap funding talks bleed into weekend amid farm aid pushback]

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House Democrats prep fallback option on stopgap funding

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, without quick reimbursement, the CCC may be unable to make regular payments for farm bill programs as early as next month.

A similar issue temporarily held up stopgap funding talks last year, when the Trump administration had rolled out support programs for farmers affected by the president’s trade dispute with China.

One person familiar with the discussions said Democrats might agree to the commodity program funding if Republicans backed off their opposition to extending the census deadlines, including a Dec. 31 deadline to deliver population counts to Trump.

That would essentially put the redistricting process in his administration’s hands, while Democrats want to extend the process into next year when Biden might be president. Some Republicans also want to extend the census deadlines so the agency has more time to complete its work, citing fears of a rushed count in remote parts of the country like Alaska.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed weeks ago that they would keep the CR “clean” of extraneous bills and provisions that could slow down talks or create political issues for either party. But as with any must-pass legislation, jockeying for late additions, particularly with the campaign’s home stretch around the corner, was an issue.

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