- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Congress on Tuesday moved closer to avoiding a government shutdown for Thanksgiving but punting the deadline to just before Christmas.

The House voted 231-192 on stopgap spending legislation known as a “continuing resolution” that would keep the government funded through Dec. 20. Without a deal, government funding is set to expire Thursday.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Rep. Jim McGovern said the House’s bill “not only keeps the lights on” but also would give the military a 3.1% pay raise, fund the 2020 census, and keep “critical” public health programs. The Massachusetts Democrat said on the House floor that the legislation would provide necessary “certainty” for federal spending while congressional appropriators in both chambers negotiate.

“Make no mistake, this majority will continue fighting hard for our priorities,” Mr. McGovern said. “We’re going to keep defending vital programs and we will be providing a check on the Trump administration, but we are going to fight for what we believe in while averting another costly shutdown because it’s the right thing to do.”

Companion legislation is expected to be taken up soon in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that Republicans want to vote to keep the government open before lawmakers leave Washington for Thanksgiving.

The Kentucky Republican said this week his colleagues were eager to receive the House legislation and he knew President Trump was ready to sign it. On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell said it was imperative that the full appropriations process be completed next month.

“Failing to secure funding for the federal government before the end of the year is not an option,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

A larger resolution to avert a partial government shutdown does not appear to be on the horizon. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has blamed the president for the impasse on spending — Mr. Trump wants as much as $8.6 million more for his border wall — while Mr. McConnell has pointed to Democrats as the main obstacle.

One key sticking point is how the continuing resolution and appropriators are dealing with the military. House Democrats such as Mr. McGovern have suggested that temporary funding legislation is what the military needs now, but Senate Republicans have argued that the military is not getting what it deserves.

Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, said on the Senate floor Tuesday that a continuing resolution harms the Pentagon’s procurement priorities, hurts its research and development efforts, and reduces the military’s purchasing power by $5 billion per quarter.

“Thanks to Democrats, right now our military is operating under a continuing resolution that leaves the military short of the funding that it needs for the 2020 fiscal year,” Mr. Thune said ahead of the House vote. “That has real consequences. In addition to leaving the military underfunded, a continuing resolution prevents the military from starting key projects that will help ensure that American men and women in uniform are prepared to meet the threats of the future.”

As leaders of both parties have feuded in public, congressional appropriators have worked behind the scenes to reach an agreement that would move the spending crisis past next week’s Thanksgiving holiday. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat who is preparing to retire rather than run for reelection, met with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, in the push to fund the government for another month.

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