Congress Heads Toward a September Scramble

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks on his cell phone as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol on September 0, 2023. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

With only 23 days before funding for the federal government runs out, lawmakers’ lax schedule of late might lead you to believe everything is under control. If the country was truly on the precipice of a government shutdown, surely members of Congress would have returned from their summer recess before this weekor next!—to hammer out appropriations for the next fiscal year.

Think again.

The House and Senate are still about $153 billion apart on their topline funding plans, setting lawmakers up for a chaotic scramble once the House joins the Senate next week in returning to work. The best-case scenario at this point appears to be a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which would temporarily fund the government at current levels and, if passed by September 30, avert a shutdown.

Ahead of the expected stalemate, Senate leaders are hoping their diligence in recent months will provide them leverage with their colleagues in the lower chamber: The Senate has moved all 12 of the required appropriations bills through the committee process with bipartisan votes. And as soon as next week, the Senate will take up a “minibus” package that would consider and seek to pass several of the individual appropriations bills at once. That process may include some drama. Passing the bills in a timely fashion will require unanimous consent, meaning any one senator could decide to throw a wrench in the process by withholding consent in an attempt to extract concessions. Both chambers must pass their versions of the 12 appropriations bills before the reconciliation process can begin.

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