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Hill leaders come up short on spending deal, punt to next week

The measure would tee up a spending standoff during a lame-duck session of Congress, possibly in the middle of a presidential transition. Republicans had originally pushed for a Dec. 18 end date for the stopgap, while Democrats wanted to extend government funding until Feb. 26 — a more advantageous end date if they seize control of both chambers this fall.

House leaders have said they want to vote next week on the continuing resolution. The bill would extend current government funding levels past Sept. 30 and buy more time for negotiations on a slate of fiscal 2021 spending bills.

Details of which funding and policy exceptions would be included in the measure, known as anomalies, began to trickle out Friday afternoon as both parties raced to finalize a deal. Democrats had also been pushing for $3.6 billion in election security grants, but a Democratic aide said that request did not make the final cut.

Democrats originally opposed a GOP demand to ensure that farmer bailout payments can keep flowing through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which otherwise would soon run into its $30 billion borrowing limit.

“We have serious concerns about giving President Trump a blank check to spread political favors,” a Democratic aide said. “It is an abuse of taxpayer dollars to give this administration more money so the president can grab headlines with announcements at campaign rallies.“

Meanwhile, a senior GOP Senate leadership aide slammed Pelosi earlier this afternoon for being “so out of touch with flyover country that she’s essentially telling our nation’s farmers to ‘drop dead’ by withholding funding for this critical program.”

Despite the discord with less than two weeks until a federal funding lapse, lawmakers and White House officials have signaled that a catastrophic government shutdown — which would throw the country into further turmoil during the pandemic just before the presidential election — isn’t a concern.

Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Thursday that a December date is “nonnegotiable.”

“The cleaner it is, the quicker it will be,” he said of provisions that could be tacked onto the continuing resolution.

Even if the stopgap lasts until December, lawmakers could still punt the government funding deadline into early next year if there’s little appetite for bipartisan negotiations on a massive appropriations package in the weeks after the election.

“If it ends in December, then it could go either way,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the subcommittee that oversees military construction funding, on Thursday.

“We could negotiate in earnest and finish before we adjourn for the year,” she said. “I think a lot of it is dependent on the outcome of the presidential election … There are a lot of balls in the air that are being juggled right now, a lot of uncertainty.“

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