Let’s start here: D.C. Public Schools and the federal government are closed today due to the snow. We will keep you posted on how this impacts House and Senate votes scheduled for this evening.
We’re just three days from a partial government shutdown. There are a lot of dynamics we’re tracking right now.
First: The Office of Management and Budget has already sent shutdown guidance to federal agencies, agency officials said. OMB is required to do so one week before a potential shutdown.
Senate: The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote tonight on the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan short-term continuing resolution that will extend government funding deadlines to March 1 and March 8. This vote is still on despite the snow, we were told late Monday.
Once the Senate invokes cloture as expected, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will lay down the CR as a substitute. That’s where things get tricky.
Without a time agreement, senators who oppose the CR can delay passage of the stopgap funding package until Sunday. And the House still has to vote after that. Speed is of the essence, which is never Congress’s strength.
So Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who always opposes shutdowns — will work to resolve objections.
Passing a CR doesn’t solve any of the big outstanding issues facing our national political leaders. It has no impact on the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s no money for Ukraine, Israel or Taiwan. It doesn’t cut the deficit or help the economy.
But it’ll keep federal agencies open for another 40 days — wandering in the desert anyone? — so that appropriators can draft 12 appropriations bills and pass them before automatic spending cuts kick in by mid-April. That’s the hope, anyway.
The 118th Congress continues to set low expectations and then struggles to meet them.
House: The House returns to session today. As of late Monday night, the House Republican leadership seemed intent on keeping votes scheduled for this evening as well. Part of this is to instill some urgency in getting members back to Washington. If party leaders cancel votes tonight, lawmakers won’t make an effort to return to Capitol Hill, delaying the House’s business with a shutdown looming Friday night.
Speaker Mike Johnson and the House Republican leadership plan to host a closed-door party meeting Wednesday morning to talk through the week’s business. And, of course, the highlight of this week’s business is passing the government funding bill by Friday night.
Passage in the House will mean some hoop-jumping for GOP leaders. Johnson can’t put this bill through the Rules Committee. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy stacked the panel with several conservatives a year ago in order to win the gavel. Those hardline conservatives are incredibly unlikely to give approval for another stopgap funding bill.
This means Johnson is going to have to rely on the suspension calendar to get this bill through. Floor passage under this requires a two-thirds majority, or 290 votes. And this is important to keep in mind — lawmakers can’t amend legislation that is considered under suspension of the rules. It’s an up-or-down vote.
Remember: The House Republican majority is incredibly tenuous right now. Historically tenuous.
There are currently 220 House Republicans and 213 Democrats. That’s a 3-vote margin. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the dean of the House, is expected to be out this week following a car accident. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is also out while recovering from a stem-cell transplant. That leaves 218 GOP lawmakers available to vote, just a 2-vote margin, and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) is leaving Congress next week. That’s a bare-bone majority. Yikes.
— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan