The House Democrats’ legislation would keep the government funded through Dec. 11. But it omits $30 billion sought by Trump and Senate Republicans to replenish a bailout program for farmers that Democrats oppose. The Trump administration has already directed tens of billions of dollars in emergency aid to farmers, first because of the impact of the White House’s various trade wars and most recently because of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
There has long been government assistance for agriculture companies, but not on the scale Trump has launched in the past few years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) panned the House plan in a statement on Twitter.
“House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” McConnell said.
The House plans to pass the legislation as soon as Tuesday and send it to the Senate. Republicans in the Senate could block the bill or seek to amend it and send it back to the House. For now the path forward is unclear — and what both sides expected to be a straightforward extension of government funding could turn into a high-stakes showdown just ahead of the election.
Democrats called on Republicans Monday to accept the bill.
“The continuing resolution introduced today will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
Talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin aimed at reaching a compromise over the farm money unexpectedly broke down late Friday.
At one point Friday, Pelosi and Mnuchin had appeared to reach a tentative deal to trade the farm bailout money for food assistance for schoolchildren affected by the pandemic. But that agreement never materialized. Republicans accused Pelosi of backing out of a deal with Mnuchin, while Democrats insisted there wasn’t really a deal to begin with.
Nonetheless, before McConnell put out his statement Monday, White House officials had suggested they might be able to live with the so-called “continuing resolution,” or CR, even without the farm money.
“We do prefer additional farm aid in the CR … Most of all we want a clean CR to keep the government open,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House.
Much of Washington’s attention is focused on the coming Supreme Court nomination battle following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and neither party has shown interest in sparring over government funding. Pelosi and Mnuchin agreed some time ago on the need for a stopgap spending bill.
But Democrats oppose the farm bailout money because they view it as a political payoff to farmers hurt by Trump’s trade policies. The president announced a new round of aid to farmers at a campaign rally last week in battleground Wisconsin, money that would come from the same fund that would be replenished by the new funding stream the administration was seeking as part of the stopgap spending bill.
The short-term spending bill, as introduced in the House, also does not include any new provisions related to economic aid for the coronavirus. Talks around a new coronavirus relief bill are essentially dead, despite pressure on Pelosi from moderate House Democrats to revive them.
Congress in recent years has frequently failed to pass the 12 annual must-pass spending bills to fund government agencies on time, and has had to resort to short-term spending bills. There have also been a number of government shutdowns, with a lengthy one running from December 2018 until January 2019.
Although a large portion of the federal budget — including programs such as Medicare and Social Security — runs on autopilot, funding for multiple government agencies and programs must be renewed annually by Congress.