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    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    Senate negotiators announce bipartisan bid to avert shutdown

    Washington — Senate Democratic and Republican leaders agreed Tuesday on a plan to keep the government open through mid-November and provide $6 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

    The Senate’s stopgap measure to avert an Oct. 1 shutdown still would have to overcome gridlock in the Republican-controlled House and a federal funding lapse remains likely.

    Speaker Kevin McCarthy could face ouster by conservative hard-liners if he allows a bipartisan plan to come to a vote.

    The Senate may not be able to vote its approval for the temporary measure before the Saturday midnight shutdown deadline because Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, is threatening to slow it with procedural obstacles over the inclusion of Ukraine aid.

    Moderate House Republicans are prepared to join with Democrats to invoke a rarely used procedure to force a vote on some type of bipartisan temporary funding plan. Yet it’s a time-consuming tactic and they won’t be able to do so before the shutdown deadline.

    The Senate plan, which would extend funding until Nov. 17, falls short of the $24 billion in Ukraine aid requested by President Joe Biden. It includes $6 billion of the $16 billion in emergency disaster relief the White House sought.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was “a bridge, not a final destination,” and that more will needed to be done later to address Ukraine and the recovery from a series of hurricanes and wildfires.

    “Over the years I have been clear in my view that government shutdowns are bad news,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They don’t work as bargaining chips.”

    The Senate cleared the first procedural vote Tuesday evening on the bill leaders intend to amend with the bipartisan deal.

    The Senate plans a shortfall in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program and temporarily extend some expiring farm bill programs. It would also allow the Pentagon to build a second Columbia Class submarine.

    The House is focused on trying to pass full-year funding bills for the State, Agriculture, Homeland Security and Defense departments that would not in themselves end the shutdown threat.

    McCarthy has said that after spending most of the week on these bills, he plans to bring up a stopgap bill that contains a deep cut to domestic spending and immigration law changes that are anathema to Senate Democrats and the White House.

    So far, at least 11 members of his party have indicated they would resist allowing a vote on that measure, preventing consideration unless McCarthy can win over some House Democrats.

    Moderate House Republicans are preparing to join with Democrats on a discharge petition to force a vote on a bipartisan effort. The procedure was adopted by the House in 1910 as a check on the speaker’s power and would force a vote on a bill without his approval. Discharge petitions have been successfully deployed just twice this century.

    Given their narrow majority, only five Republicans must join with Democrats to bring it about. Thirty-two Republicans have already signed onto a bipartisan bill to finance the government through Jan. 11 and provide military aid to Ukraine. The petition could be used to force a vote on the Senate bipartisan bill.

    Reps. Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro, both New York Republicans who represent areas Democrat Joe Biden carried in the last presidential election, already have publicly threatened to join Democrats in such a petition, and other GOP moderates are ready to do so.

    The discharge petition, last deployed successfully in 2015, can be used to force a vote within nine “legislative days” when Congress is actually in session.

    Bloomberg staff writers Steven T. Dennis and Billy House contributed to this story.

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