Both lawmakers expressed the hope that the extension would give them more time to come up with a deal that would fund all government operations through Sept. 30, 2020, which is the end of this fiscal year. But key issues remain unresolved, including how much money will go to Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Senate Republicans have proposed adding an additional $5 billion to the budget for the wall, while House Democrats have proposed zero dollars.
The new timeline will also put the next shutdown date right in the middle of when the House is expected to be voting on whether to impeach Trump. But the lawmakers said they hope to be able to complete the necessary work of funding the government anyway.
The White House has expressed support for the December timeline, though Trump tends to hold back formal support for budget deals until lawmakers prepare to vote.
Lawmakers had discussed extending funding into early next year. But they were concerned that if they attempted that, the process could falter and they would end up continuing to fund all agencies at current spending levels. That would mean the Pentagon and domestic agencies would have to forgo significant spending increases, an outcome lawmakers of both parties oppose.
The government is projected to spend roughly $1 trillion more than it brings in from revenue in this fiscal year, in part because both Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending on numerous agencies.
The White House has made clear that Trump’s priority out of spending talks is to get the money he wants for his wall. However, administration officials have also made clear that if Congress doesn’t approve the money he wants, Trump is prepared to use executive authority to take money for border barriers from other accounts.
That’s what happened at the beginning of this year, after a record 35-day government shutdown over the wall. Trump declared a national emergency at the border and took $3.6 billion from military construction projects for the wall.
Shelby told reporters that he and Trump had discussed wall funding this weekend during a football game at the University of Alabama. The wall has emerged as a major sticking point since lawmakers can’t agree to spending levels for other programs without knowing the price tag of the Homeland Security spending bill that funds the wall.
“That’s a good question,” Shelby told reporters when asked what sort of compromise might emerge on wall funding. “I think the wall is entwined in all of this to some extent. It’s not everything, but it’s an important element, and we’re mindful of that. We could agree on a lot of things and go nowhere with it, but what we want to do is try to reach an agreement between us that the president will sign on to.”
Shelby ruled out a shutdown when government funding expires next week.
“I’m confident there won’t be a shutdown,” he said. “It would be shocking. It would be shocking, devastating and uncalled for.”
Lowey expressed confidence that lawmakers will complete work on the 12 annual must-pass spending bills that fund government agencies by the new Dec. 20 deadline. Congress is responsible for doling out discretionary spending, which makes up about a third of the federal budget and does not include “mandatory” programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
“We are going to get our work done,” Lowey said.