News & Politics

Congress Prepares for a Weekend Government Shutdown as Pandemic Relief talks Drag On

Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP

Congress is close — oh, so close — in coming up with a bill to fund the government through next October and a pandemic relief bill that will be passed at the same time.

But we’ve heard this before and nothing happened. The only reason to believe they’ll get it done this time is that both parties have sworn not to leave Washington until pandemic relief is passed. And with the $1.4 trillion government funding bill joined at the hip with the coronavirus stimulus, it seems that Congress is going to have to pass both before they can leave for the holidays.

The problem is that without that funding bill, the government will at least partially shut down after midnight. Congress is hoping that if they work through the weekend, they might be able to vote for the package on Monday.

The Hill:

“If I had to put an over and under on it, I would say Sunday morning and if I was going with the over or the under, I’d take the over. I guess that’s probably the best-case scenario,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) added that it was “clear” Congress will be in session over the weekend.

“There may be a partial lapse. It’s clear we’re here for the weekend. It’s clear that there’s some, you know, it seems to me that the issues that remain unresolved are bridgeable. But the question is how long does that take,” he added.

The holdup on coronavirus relief appears to be that Republican senators have had enough of not letting the crisis go to waste and will not support another massive relief bill — exactly the kind of legislation the Democrats are promising when they call the current relief package “a downpayment.”

“I am worried about that because we still, I believe, need to do state and local. If Republicans control the Senate that’s going to be hard,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Asked if he thought not including liability in the current agreement would force McConnell back to the table next year, Durbin added: “I have no idea what’s going to bring him back.”

The hang-ups appear to be centered solely on the coronavirus relief negotiations, not the larger government funding bill. McConnell, earlier Thursday, described the government funding portion as on the “one-yard line” and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters it was done.

McConnell is more interested in keeping the Senate relevant during a Democratic presidency than in anything else — including trying to accommodate the new president and Democrats in working on another pandemic relief bill, probably as the first order of business after the inauguration. This won’t sit well with many GOP Senators but if this thing is going to get as bad as some of the experts are saying, they may not have much of a choice. These same senators were never going to include individual checks to taxpayers in this relief bill, yet, some kind of cash payment to Americans will happen. The American people spoke loud and clear on that.

Never say “never” in politics.

Of course, if both Georgia Sens. Loeffler and Perdue lose their runoff races, it will be easier, but not guaranteed, for a massive bill to pass the Senate. If that’s the case, McConnell and Republicans will be in no mood to cooperate or accommodate. It will be all-out war — a war where everybody, including the American people, lose.