Here we go again.
If Congress doesn’t take action by Thursday, the federal government will shut down for the second time in the past couple of weeks.
And even though congressional leaders from both parties say it’s unlikely to happen again, there’s no deal yet to avert a shutdown.
“It’s terribly frustrating,” New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, lamented Monday.
Congresswoman Annie Kuster was equally frustrated.
“Look this is no way to run the government. Nobody would run their business this way. You wouldn’t even run your family finances this way,” the Democrat in the state’s 2nd Congressional District said.
The most recent short-term government funding bill, struck late last month, expires on Thursday.
That deal, which ended a three-day shutdown, included a promise by Senate Republicans to hold a floor debate mid-February on a bill that would extend protections to thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections. Those protections for the so-called 700,000 Dreamers, through the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, are set to begin expiring next month.
Shaheen, along with New Hampshire’s junior U.S. senator, fellow Democrat Maggie Hassan, was part of a bipartisan gang of senators that came up with the framework on the last compromise. The group, which also included Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King, was led by the state’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins.
Shaheen said the group’s “been working since the last shutdown not only to try and keep the government open but get a funding agreement and also get an agreement around DACA.”
While progress has been made, no deal has yet to be struck on the contentious issue. If no compromise is reached by next week, a no holds barred debate would take place on the Senate floor.
“Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell has agreed to bring a neutral bill to the floor. One that doesn’t benefit one side or the other. And give us some opportunity to amend it. So that’s what it will be. It will be an opportunity to really debate the issue,” Shaheen said.
A key difference from last month’s shutdown is that this time around, the fight over DACA has been decoupled from the battle over a government funding bill.
While the moves to avert another shutdown are still very much in flux, it’s expected that the U.S. House would vote Tuesday or Wednesday on a short-term bill to keep the government running through March 22.
House Democrats are expected to vote against the GOP continuing resolution, since it doesn’t include any promises from GOP leadership to allow for a floor vote in their chamber on any Senate deal on the Dreamers.
What’s unclear is whether House Republicans will have enough votes to pass the continuing resolution, as frustrated conservatives are balking at supporting yet another temporary funding solution.
Shaheen also railed against a kick-the-can down the road way of funding the government.
“One of things that I hope will happen as the result of this is that we will not just get an agreement for the remainder of this year going into next year but that we will also get some agreement around a process that will allow us bring the bills to the floor and get the funding done,” she said.
“I’m on the Appropriations Committee. We’ve gotten our work done. But there has not been a commitment from leadership to bring those bills to the floor. And they almost all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. That’s not been a partisan issue. Why they can’t come to the floor is really the question,” Shaheen added.