WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives struggle to agree on funding bills, Senate Democrats on Thursday signaled they may try to act on their own to offset a partial federal government shutdown beginning on Oct. 1.
Here are a few ways Congress might avoid a shutdown:
SENATE JAMS THE HOUSE
If the House of Representatives appeared unable to produce any sort of government-funding bill by Sept. 30, the Senate could take matters into its own hands.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer began this process by scheduling the first procedural vote on such a bill for Tuesday evening. But there are many steps ahead, which can be time-consuming unless all 100 senators agree to shortcuts, which they rarely do.
Schumer plans to take an already-passed House bill reauthorizing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and replace its language with a new temporary funding bill, which is known as a continuing resolution, or CR.
That would get around a constitutional requirement that revenue-related bills originate in the House.
The Senate in this scenario would likely aim to pass the retooled measure close – but not too close – to the midnight Sept. 30 deadline so that it can send a CR to the House with little time to spare. It is a move known as “jamming” the other chamber.
THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could find the sweet spot for a one-month funding deal that his Republicans would embrace.
Passage by the Republican-controlled House, where appropriations bills normally originate, would send the stopgap measure to the Democratic-led Senate. It likely would arrive with a tough border-control measure attached, which Democrats oppose.
President Joe Biden wants his own temporary border security plan enacted instead. So, once the bill arrives in the Senate, Schumer would be likely to replace the House border security language with Biden’s.
Once the Senate passed its temporary spending bill, the House could vote to accept the Senate changes – possibly hours or minutes before the midnight Sept. 30 deadline. Or the House could reject the proposal, triggering a shutdown.
MCCARTHY ROLLS THE DICE
Unable to get enough far-right conservative Republicans on board, McCarthy could take a big political gamble and send a bill to the House floor that would need Democratic votes to pass. This would anger some House Republicans and possibly prompt them to launch an effort to strip him of his speakership, potentially plunging the Congress into an even deeper crisis.
COALITION OF CENTRISTS
Various moderate-to-centrist lawmakers have been huddling privately to see if they can come up with plans to break the House deadlock.
For example, the “Problem Solvers Caucus” has produced a framework that would extend current government funding until Jan. 11, 2024, and attach disaster aid, Ukraine aid and some sort of border security measure.
Members of the House can circulate a “discharge petition” to dislodge legislation from a committee and send it to the full House for a prompt vote.
There are difficult and often time-consuming procedural hurdles that would have to be cleared and the majority party in the House – Republicans currently – is often loathe to buck their leadership by joining the minority party in a revolt.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Marguerita Choy)