One of the biggest remaining items on Congress’s year-end to-do list is to pass a massive bill that tells the federal government what it can—and cannot—spend money on. Predictably, lawmakers are about to run out of time.
The House and Senate have until the end of Friday to approve an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which runs through next September. Yet unlike several previous spending deadlines, there’s not much concern in Washington about the threat of a government shutdown—at least immediately. Negotiators from both parties have been in talks for weeks, and while no agreement has been reached, Republican leaders have made repeated assurances that Congress would pass a stopgap bill to extend the deadline by a few days if they don’t strike a broader deal by Friday.
“We will not allow the government not to be funded,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday morning. The House had been scheduled to depart for the year on Friday, but McCarthy warned lawmakers to be in Washington over the weekend and perhaps into early next week to finish the spending bill.
The spending bill is, in some ways, the last unfinished work of former Speaker John Boehner. The budget deal Boehner ushered through Congress before he left in October set the parameters for federal spending over the next two years, but lawmakers now need to determine how the money gets divvied up. And some of the biggest remaining sticking points are not dollar figures but policy provisions and restrictions that traditionally get added to large spending bills.