Senate Democrats are letting Speaker Kevin McCarthy make the first move to avert a government shutdown — for now.
Democratic leaders in the upper chamber aren’t yet telegraphing that they’ll jump in and jam the House GOP with a funding bill that can pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden, content to watch McCarthy try to tame in his conference’s dysfunction. They want to see if he can pass anything at all before the Sept. 30 shutdown deadline.
“They have to take action first, technically, so let’s see what they can do in the next couple days,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in an interview Tuesday. Asked when the Senate might need to stop waiting and take action, she said: “Talk to me in a couple days.”
Democrats are still preparing for the House to pass a stopgap bill, commonly known as a continuing resolution or CR, and send it to the Senate, according to a person familiar with party strategy. The Senate could then amend that bill and send it back to the House by stripping out unpopular provisions, such as spending cuts and border policy.
But time is of the essence: The Senate usually leaves on Thursday afternoons and is scheduled to be out on Monday for Yom Kippur. Given that tight timeline, the Senate may need cooperation from all 100 members to move a bill to stop a shutdown that would kick in Oct. 1.
The Senate is currently considering a package of spending bills to fund the government for a year, which may become a piece of any year-end funding deal and is running parallel to the more urgent shutdown debate. Some senators are ready to move to the shutdown fight right now.
“I think we ought to focus on the CR and emergency supplemental as the most important priority,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in an interview. “Can we prioritize higher getting a CR done?”
On the other side of the Capitol: McCarthy is arguing that the House wouldn’t accept a Senate-approved deal, but also trying to pin blame for a shutdown on Majority Leader Chuck Schumer even as the GOP leader was forced to punt his own bill on Tuesday.
“If the whole idea is, the House has to agree to whatever Schumer wants, that doesn’t work,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “If Schumer on the other end is doing nothing, he must want a shutdown.”
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.