White House, Congress struggle to complete stop-gap spending bill as October shutdown looms

Trump weighed in on the issue over Twitter, writing: “Pelosi wants to take 30 Billion Dollars away from our great Farmers. Can’t let that happen!”

Trump has already spent several years directing tens of billions of dollars in bailout funds to farmers by using a Depression-era law in a way that even some Agriculture Department officials believed was possibly improper. To continue sending the funds, Trump needs congressional approval, and Democrats have opposed sending more bailout money to farmers because they allege he is using the taxpayer money to try and mollify the political backlash to his trade policies.

Trump announced at a rally Thursday night in the battleground state of Wisconsin that farmers would get an additional $13 billion, money from the same fund that the administration is seeking to replenish via the short-term spending bill.

“We have serious concerns about giving President Trump a blank check to spread political favors,” a senior House Democratic aide involved in the talks said in explaining the Democrats’ opposition to the money. “It is an abuse of taxpayer dollars to give this administration more money so the president can grab headlines with announcements at campaign rallies.” The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Additionally, Democrats are seeking more money for food assistance to children impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They also want $3.6 billion in additional election security funds as part of the short-term bill — something Republicans oppose.

The talks on the short-term spending bill are separate from the stalemate over a new coronavirus relief bill. That standoff showed no signs of budging on Friday, as Pelosi continued to hold out for a $2.2 trillion bill that Republicans have rejected — despite pressure from moderates in her caucus to give ground.

Pelosi dismissed a reporter’s question about whether she was letting the perfect be the enemy of the good regarding the broader coronavirus relief bill. She reiterated that she has already compromised from a $3.4 trillion bill House Democrats passed in May, which the White House and Senate Republicans dismissed.

“It’s not perfect … perfect is $3.4 trillion,” Pelosi said. “This is not about perfect being the enemy of the good.”

Trump has recently signaled he would be comfortable with a bill in the area of $1.5 trillion. Both Trump and House Democrats have said they support legislation that would send another round of stimulus checks to Americans, as well as more unemployment assistance.

The plight of airlines is also a growing area of concern for members of both parties. A provision from the Cares Act that required airlines to keep workers on payroll in exchange for aid expires Sept. 30, and major airlines have warned of mass lay-offs.

In a letter Friday to congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the head of United Airlines and the leaders of several major airline unions urged Congress to renew negotiations on a new covid relief bill that would include an extension of the airline Payroll Support Program. The

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Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

Chuck Schumer wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign's final stretch

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Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign’s final stretch

THE TOPLINE: The House is back in session this week, joining the Senate, and funding the government before money runs out in a couple weeks is a top to-do item.

Congress is expected to pass a stopgap spending measure. But over the weekend, The Hill’s Jordain Carney looked at how Democrats are divided over how long the continuing resolution (CR) should last.

The November election is complicating the Democratic strategy in the looming government shutdown fight.

Feeling momentum as they aim to win back the Senate and the White House, Democrats are divided over whether to agree to the GOP-favored stopgap bill that lasts into December or push for a longer deal to fund the government into early 2021.

A shorter bill, supporters hope, would force Congress to reach a larger funding deal before the end of the year. But a bill that lasts into next year would take a lame duck shutdown fight off the table and give Democrats more leverage if Democratic nominee Joe Biden is elected president.

“We’ve gone back and forth, it’s a split decision in the caucus. If you can tell us what happens Nov. 3 it is a lot easier. … The uncertainty about the presidential election is an element,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said when asked about the length of a bill.

Neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have publicly endorsed a timeline. A House Democratic aide noted that behind-the-scenes negotiations about what the strategy should be are ongoing.

Why it matters to defense: The Pentagon is no fan of CRs or shutdowns, warning that readiness is harmed by unpredictable funding.

Defense officials also often warn that the longer CRs go on the more damage is done to the military because the stopgap measures generally prohibit starting new programs or adjusting existing ones.

You’ll recall we reported last week that the administration asked for several exceptions to that rule, including flexibility to fund the Space Force, new submarines and a new nuclear warhead.

AFGHANISTAN DEVELOPMENTS: Much-delayed talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban started this weekend in Doha, Qatar, a historic development that is raising hope, however little, of ending two decades of war.

Back in the United States, a House panel said Monday it has secured an agreement for the Trump administration’s envoy to Afghan peace talks to testify before the committee after it issued a subpoena threat.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, will testify before the House Oversight and Reform National Security Subcommittee when he returns from his trip to Qatar, the

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House eyes vote on stopgap spending bill next week

The House could vote on a stopgap spending bill next week to give the Senate plenty of time to approve the measure before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

“I want to put it on the floor next week,” Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “I want to give the Senate at least a week to pass it. I want to make sure government doesn’t shut down.”

That gives congressional leaders and the White House just a few days to wrap up negotiations on details of the continuing resolution, which is needed to avert a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1. None of the dozen fiscal 2021 appropriations bills have yet become law.

Hoyer’s timeline makes sense given a truncated congressional schedule the following week in the run-up to the shutdown deadline. The House and Senate are each out of session for the Yom Kippur holiday on Monday, Sept. 28, with the House returning only at 6:30 p.m. for votes that following Tuesday. The Senate is not back until Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House earlier Monday that negotiators were trying to wrap up talks this week on the stopgap measure. He and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., previously agreed to keep the CR clean of contentious riders, including coronavirus aid provisions.

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