WASHINGTON — Even as Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., preps a last-ditch attempt to get his unruly conference in line behind a spending strategy, there were quiet staff-level talks happening among the “four corners” of the congressional leadership in both chambers to somehow avert a shutdown.
Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have been negotiating the contents of a stopgap spending measure while keeping House GOP leaders in the loop, sources familiar with the talks said. They are cognizant of the pressures McCarthy is facing and are trying to give him something his conference can feasibly swallow, these people said.
Accordingly, Senate leaders are said to be considering leaving out Ukraine aid and possibly additional supplemental disaster relief appropriations.
Although senators on both sides of the aisle strongly support Ukraine aid, they’ll get another bite at the apple in roughly six weeks when a continuing resolution expires Nov. 17 — although that date isn’t set in stone, sources said. That date lines up with what McCarthy floated to his members during a Saturday conference call.
Leaving out Ukraine aid could make it easier to jump through that chamber’s procedural hoops given expected roadblocks from Rand Paul, R-Ky., and possibly others. One source familiar with the talks said adding a Ukraine aid package could also lead to demands from Republicans for a substantial border security package that there may not be time to negotiate.
No decisions have been made yet on the Ukraine piece, in part because the duration of the CR hasn’t been finalized. If funding is extended beyond November, for example, there could be more pressure to get the money to Ukraine as part of the bill.
Disaster relief is broadly popular as well. But a bipartisan “anomaly” that’s already in an initial House version of stopgap legislation would free up $20 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund without adding extra money that House conservatives have said they oppose.
One disaster-related item is expected to ride along with the CR: A fix to prevent steep pay cuts for wildland firefighters as soon as October.
The White House requested $60 million in new funding to last through December; the House’s current stopgap bill would repurpose up to $17.25 million from the 2021 infrastructure law to get through the duration of that monthlong government funding extension. The exact contours of a negotiated firefighter relief provision weren’t immediately clear.
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