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Updated Dec 11, 2023, 6:19am EST
politics

Republicans are pushing Washington toward a shutdown, says Dem appropriations chief

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
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The News

The GOP’s budget strategy is a “recipe for a government shutdown,” one key Democrat is warning.

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash. told Semafor in an interview last week that her party would not agree to a bill that slashes spending any further than the debt ceiling deal Congress reached earlier this year. She also directly criticized House Speaker Mike Johnson for “refusing to live with the agreement that’s been signed into law negotiated by his party with the President.”

Congress needs to reach a deal to fund the government early next year or face a complete shutdown in February. That task has been made more complicated by House conservatives, who have insisted on a budget that spends less than agreed on in the debt ceiling deal. Though they’ve walked back some of those demands, the two chambers remain far apart.

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Johnson has said that if Congress can’t agree on a full budget plan, he intends to pass a stopgap spending measure that lasts through the end of the fiscal year. But Murray says she’s “unnerved” by that fallback plan, and that it would be dead on arrival in the upper chamber. Johnson has suggested his proposal would freeze current spending levels. Murray points out that it would trigger a 1% across-the-board cut under the terms of the debt ceiling law, which she described as “devastating.”

A new fact sheet from her committee notes that domestic programs would face a $70 billion reduction, while defense would see up to a $36.5 billion cut, compared with the toplines in the debt deal.

For now, Murray is prodding Johnson to let negotiations to start in earnest between House and Senate appropriators.

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“He still needs to get this done and he needs to do it in a responsible way, not in a way that it endangers this country,” Murray said.

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Johnson reiterated in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Thursday that he doesn’t intend to “have the House consider any short-term funding extensions.” Under the current continuing resolution, funding dries up for agriculture, military, veterans, and food agencies, and the Transportation Department on Jan. 19. It would expire for the Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services departments, among others, on Feb. 2.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations panel, has also started sounding the alarm about the impact of cuts to military readiness, including delays to repair US Navy ships. There’s scarce, if any, appetite in the Senate for a funding fight.

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“If we have another CR, I’m unhappy about that,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told Semafor. “If we have a shutdown, they ought to kick us all out of here.”

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Correction

An earlier version of this story misquoted Sen. Jon Tester saying he would be “happy” with a continuing resolution. He said “unhappy.”

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