Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that the chamber could vote to pass a stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown “as soon as today.”
If the Senate passes the bill, as expected, the measure would next go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. Government funding is currently set to expire at the end of the week on Friday, November 17.
Schumer said he will work with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell “to see if we can come to an agreement to accelerate this bill’s passage.”
“If both sides cooperate, there’s no reason we can’t finish this bill even as soon as today,” he said
To hold the Senate vote on Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans would have to reach an agreement to expedite the process, which would require unanimous consent from all 100 senators. An objection from any single senator could slow down the timeline.
“No drama, no delay, no government shutdown. That’s our goal. And we hope we have an agreement very soon to avoid a shutdown,” Schumer said.
The House passed the stopgap bill on Tuesday. In the first major test of his leadership, newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson is pursuing an unusual two-step plan that would set up new shutdown deadlines in January and February.
The bill would extend funding until January 19 for priorities including military construction, veterans’ affairs, transportation, housing and the Energy Department. The rest of the government – anything not covered by the first step – would be funded until February 2. The proposal does not include additional aid for Israel or Ukraine.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota expressed optimism on Wednesday that the Senate could pass the spending bill later in the day. “I don’t think there’s any reason why we couldn’t vote today,” he told reporters.
Asked whether any members of his conference are pushing for amendment votes, which could slow down the process, he acknowledged that there is one – Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky – but indicated that won’t significantly delay final passage.
“We’re not seeing anything out there that would suggest that we couldn’t process this fairly quickly,” he said.
The stopgap plan would give lawmakers more time to attempt to negotiate and pass full-year spending bills, though major partisan divisions would make that effort fraught and complicated. Johnson has argued that his plan would prevent Congress from passing a massive spending bill in December – a scenario that has played out many times before when lawmakers have faced a deadline right before the winter holidays.
The short-term funding plan sparked backlash from some conservatives upset that it did not include deep spending cuts that they have demanded. As a result, the bill required Democratic support to pass the House.
More House Democrats supported the measure than Republicans – a warning sign for Johnson on how challenging it will be for lawmakers to strike a broader funding deal in just over two months.
This story has been updated with additional developments.