- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2020

Congress is suddenly facing a nine-day time crunch to avoid a government shutdown after Senate Republicans on Monday rejected the stopgap spending bill offered by House Democrats.

The bill notably left out additional funding to replenish a bailout program for farmers hard-hit by the coronavirus that the White House wanted. Some Democrats object to the item as a payoff to those the president hurt with his own policies.

“House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Government funding is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, giving lawmakers just over a week to pass a bill through Congress and get it signed into law by President Trump, all while partisan tensions are spiking with 45 days until the election and a Supreme Court nomination fight looming.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill often use these temporary funding measures, known as continuing resolutions (CR), to give themselves more time to work out a deal without the government running out of money.

It’s still unclear whether the Senate might take up an amended version of the bill or whether negotiators can hammer out a cleaned up agreement before time runs out.

The aid for farmers that was left out of the bill would have funded the Commodity Credit Corporation, which has a borrowing limit of $30 billion.

Senate Republicans accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of abandoning a bipartisan deal to help the farmers. While the White House is still prioritizing the aid, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that no one wants a shutdown amid a pandemic that shuttered the American economy.

“We do prefer additional farm aid in the CR,” he said. “Most of all we want a clean CR to keep the government open.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are blaming Republicans for creating the time crunch.

“While the House did its job and passed bills funding nearly every government agency, Senate Republicans did not even begin the appropriations process. Because of their irresponsibility, a continuing resolution is sadly necessary,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, New York Democrat and House Appropriations chairwoman.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin made working on the stop-gap bill their top priority in recent weeks, setting aside the far more controversial — and stalled — negotiations over coronavirus relief. Lawmakers had expected easy passage of the spending bill until talks hit a snag over the weekend.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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