The Senate must pass a short-term government funding bill sometime during the day Friday ahead of the funding expiration deadline to avert a shutdown, but lawmakers have been dealing with a series of holdups that have thrown a timeline for a vote into question.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters Thursday that lawmakers were facing multiple holdups in trying to wrap a vote on a short-term spending bill to avert a shutdown, known as a continuing resolution, and finish up the defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act.
The short-term spending bill would extend government funding by a week and is aimed at giving lawmakers more time to reach an agreement on Covid relief and broader funding legislation for a new fiscal year. It passed the House earlier this week.
One of the potential holdups is the fact that Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said Thursday that he is filibustering the NDAA, over an amendment from Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, that Paul says would limit the President’s ability to withdraw troops from a war zone like Afghanistan.
In addition to Paul’s filibuster, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is demanding a vote on a provision that would give individuals $1,200 stimulus checks and a group of conservative senators is insisting on a vote on legislation to prevent future government shutdowns.
For now, it’s unclear exactly how the standoff will play out. If a shutdown were to happen it would likely be brief and over the weekend when many government operations are not open.
The uncertainty over a potential shutdown comes as lawmakers are also continuing to struggle to reach agreement over a new round of Covid relief and a broader government funding package.
If the Senate passes the stopgap bill Friday, it will set up a new looming deadline — giving lawmakers just one additional week to work out thorny issues that are currently holding up those agreements, or potentially witness the collapse of the talks involved in both issues.