Republicans and Democrats in the Senate signaled Tuesday they are marching forward to pass a stopgap measure to keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown March 27.
Republicans in the House are expected Thursday to pass their own legislation to keep the government's lights on until September. Their version of the bill would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year with roughly $980 billion, a number that takes into account the $85 billion in cuts from sequestration. The legislation includes a full year appropriations bill for the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to give the agencies a bit more flexibility to reallocate some of the across-the-board cuts that began March 1.
Democrats in the Senate have signaled they'd like to give domestic agencies affected by sequester more ability to reallocate the cuts as well.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski told reporters Tuesday that she would have preferred an appropriations bill that wraps together all the funding for every agency rather than a so-called "continuing resolution" that funds most of the government at the previous year's rate. But given that time is running out until the feds default, a more comprehensive deal wasn't possible.
"We are now looking at how we can fashion a hybrid that makes sure we meet the national security needs of the nation but also compelling human priorities and the kind of investments we need to make in science and technology," Mikulski says. "We're in negotiations and conversations with the House."
For the most part, Democrats and Republicans acknowledge it's best to compromise and resolve the matter without political fireworks.
"It's likely there will be an agreement on the CR because Republicans paid such a huge price when they closed the government down," says Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin. "They don't want to be in that position. The likely next battle will be the budget."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the House and Senate are in close communication as both chambers debate their respective versions of the CR.
"Senate Democrats are going to want to have some imprint of the version of the continuing resolution that comes over from the House. We anticipate that," McConnell said Tuesday during a briefing with reporters. "I don't think the House expects the bill to be exactly the way it looks when it comes over here after the Senate passes it. ...There seems not to be any interest on either side of having a government shutdown."
Some Democrats, however, are weary of the GOP's continuing resolution plan, saying it prioritizes big defense on the backs of the working class and poor.
"We have been taking cuts for a long time and all of the programs that [hurt] the social safety net," says Democratic Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. "And now they are going to have more for defense, more for [military construction] and yet we are going to cut the safety net even more for poor people in this country. I hope my party will not be a part of that."