Lawmakers fail to reach deal with partial shutdown looming

Congressional leaders are trading blame as both sides struggle to strike a bipartisan deal to stave off the threat of a partial government shutdown.

Lawmakers have until Mar. 1 to pass legislation to fund the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and other offices for fiscal 2024 or risk their first partial government shutdown in years.

Leaders were expected to announce an announcement this weekend on potential next steps as spending talks continued over the current recess. But leaders on both sides said Sunday that more work is needed for both sides to reach a compromise.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that lawmakers “hoped to have legislation ready this weekend” to give members time to review text but pinned blame on House Republicans shortly after, saying it’s clear the party needs “more time to sort themselves out.”

“We are mere days away from a partial government shutdown on March 1. Unless Republicans get serious, the extreme Republican shutdown will endanger our economy, raise costs, lower safety, and exact untold pain on the American people,” Schumer wrote in a letter to lawmakers Sunday.

However, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) pushed back on Schumer’s comments shortly after.

“Despite the counterproductive rhetoric in Leader Schumer’s letter, the House has worked nonstop, and is continuing to work in good faith, to reach agreement with the Senate on compromise government funding bills in advance of the deadlines,” Johnson said.

“Leader Schumer’s letter fails to mention that many of the points still being debated come from new Democrat demands that were not previously included in the Senate bills,” he added. “At a time of divided government, Senate Democrats are attempting at this late stage to spend on priorities that are farther left than what their chamber agreed upon.”

Spending cardinals in both chambers have been working for weeks crafting the 12 annual government funding bills that must win bipartisan support to pass. However, many senior appropriators have acknowledged partisan riders as a key hurdle in talks.

“We’ve basically finished our negotiation at the subcommittee level,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — head of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriation subcommittee — told The Hill shortly before the House’s recess earlier this month.

“There are some unresolved items that we’ve kicked up obviously to the four corners,” he added, referring to riders and “additional money.”

Schumer said “intense discussions” continue between bipartisan leadership in both chambers, along with top appropriators in the upper chamber.

The back and forth between both sides also comes as the House Freedom Caucus pushed the prospect of a yearlong stopgap funding bill. The legislation would trigger automatic cuts to government spending if the party doesn’t win concessions on controversial policy riders.

Some of the measures the ultraconservative caucus has pressed for include efforts to reduce “Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ salary to $0,” targeting the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy and defunding Planned Parenthood.

At the same time, however, Democrats have also been applying pressure on the other side of the aisle to oppose the so-called poison pills.

Schumer also took aim at Johnson for not bringing up a major Senate-passed defense and foreign aid package to the floor that includes funding for Ukraine.

“I call on the Speaker to go to Ukraine and witness what we witnessed, because I believe it is virtually impossible for anyone with decency and goodwill to turn their back on Ukraine if they saw the horrors of that war with their own eyes,” Schumer wrote in the letter, which comes after he recently visited Ukraine as part of a congressional delegation over the weekend.

“If Speaker Johnson put the national security supplemental on the floor today, it would pass with a large number of both Democrats and Republicans. Now is the time for action. Speaker Johnson cannot let politics or blind obeisance to Donald Trump get in the way,” Schumer added.

Updated at 7:23 pm.

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