- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

An agreement on stopgap spending legislation to keep the government running until Dec. 20 is far from guaranteed.

Rep. Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Committee chairwoman, told reporters Tuesday that it appeared that congressional appropriators had settled on moving the shutdown deadline from next Thursday to Dec. 20. The New York Democrat announced the apparent agreement alongside her Republican counterpart, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby after a meeting Tuesday.

But Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Shelby told reporters in the Senate basement that the Dec. 20th date had not been agreed to, but was “bandied about seriously.”

“From the 13th, now I’m hearing more about the 20th, and some people say a few days before Christmas,” the Alabama Republican told reporters. “I’ve been here Christmas Eve before. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Mr. Shelby said he was unsure whether he would need to be on Capitol Hill for Christmas Eve this year, and noted that the sticking point remains funding for the southern border wall, a priority for President Trump.

“All roads lead to the wall and from the wall,” Mr. Shelby told The Washington Times.

Disagreement over border security has spawned gridlock over a slew of annual appropriations bills. Congress has authorized spending for a host of federal agencies and departments but remains deadlocked over a spending package covering the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Labor, among others.

Mr. Shelby said he told fellow senators Wednesday that the talks were “stalled” and Congress needed a breakthrough from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Trump or Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“We won’t try to do anything until the president signs onto it,” Mr. Shelby said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, however, pointed to Mr. Trump as the main obstacle to avoiding a shutdown.

The New York Democrat said at a press conference Wednesday that there was bipartisan agreement among Mr. McConnell, Senate Democrats, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about moving the shutdown deadline to Dec. 20.

“If President Trump stays out of it, I think we can solve the whole problem by December 20th,” Mr. Schumer said at the press conference. “But you don’t know. He’s erratic, he’s whimsical, he’s egotistical, and he’s often irrational in what should happen with the budget.”

A spending deal also is on a collision course with a potential vote on impeaching Mr. Trump. But Ms. Lowey, who is preparing to retire rather than run for reelection in 2020, has said she thinks impeachment should be “irrelevant” to the appropriations process.

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