Democratic and Republican leaders traded offers this week on a measure that could fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, but agreement on a topline spending number remains elusive.
The lack of progress on an omnibus spending bill, which Democrats have discussed as a potential vehicle for additional COVID relief funding, increases the likelihood that Congress will need to pass yet another continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the Feb. 18 deadline.
Since President Biden took office more than a year ago, the government has operated under short-term measures that fund federal agencies at their existing spending levels. Appropriators need a topline number to start drafting the 12 annual spending bills for an omnibus and Republicans are looking for parity in any increase in spending between non-defense programs and the Pentagon.
Neither party wants another continuing resolution, but time is running out for an agreement. “I don’t think anybody who is interested in the military side, of the defense side of the spending or the non-defense side of the spending, either one, should be happy with the possibility of a CR, and I hope we don’t go there,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill this week.
Compounding the dispute is a push from Democrats to add another round of pandemic relief to the spending measure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated this week that Senate Republicans will not support additional emergency COVID spending in any package.
“What about a full accounting of the $6 trillion that’s already been approved?,” McConnell said this week. “If there are urgent needs for true, medical COVID needs, let’s discuss that. And let’s start that discussion by talking about repurposing the hundreds of billions that are already sitting in the pipeline.”