By Jack Phillips
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday announced the GOP has its demands for Congress on future government spending bills.
“When it comes to floor consideration, we cannot and will not start planting individual trees before we have bipartisan consensus on the shape of the forest,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor, coming about two months before the Senate’s deadline to fund the government to avoid a partial shutdown.
Members of Congress often use a short-term continuing resolution to avoid government shutdowns, and they might pass such a resolution in late September to avoid one starting in October.
Democrats will need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass a measure to keep the government funded.
In his floor remarks, McConnell said the GOP wants to ensure that defense spending rises in equal measure to non-defense spending. The Republican leader also said both parties need to avoid provisions that would sink the bill.
In response, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stated that McConnell is engaging in “revisionist history,” saying that he is negotiating with Republican leaders about the overall amount that should be spent.
“I am not going to put forward an allocation at this time. I believe that would only divide the Committee, and delay our typically bipartisan work,” Leahy said Wednesday. “I have been urging for months that we begin bipartisan, bicameral negotiations with the White House on spending top-lines, and I continue to believe that is the right way to proceed.”
Since 1980, there have been several government shutdowns after Congress failed to pass spending legislation. The longest shutdown in American history was 35 days in late 2018 and early 2019, and it occurred over a dispute regarding funding for the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that was touted by then-President Donald Trump. Before that, there was a 21-day shutdown during the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act.
Last month, meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the U.S. Treasury Department is projected to exhaust its borrowing authority in October or November and hit the debt limit.
“If that occurred, the government would be unable to pay its obligations fully, and it would delay making payments for its activities, default on its debt obligations, or both,” the non-partisan CBO said in a statement on July 21, noting that a failure to work out differences over spending could also lead to a shutdown of the government.
The Biden administration called on Congress to resolve partisan issues when attempting to pass a spending measure.
“We expect Congress to act in a timely manner to raise or suspend the debt ceiling as they did three times on a broad bipartisan basis during the last administration,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters last month.