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Congress likely to punt government shutdown deadlines again, sources say


With roughly a week until Congress’ deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown, House and Senate leaders are seriously considering a short-term federal funding extension to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal.

Four sources told Fox News Digital that the spending patch, known as a continuing resolution (CR), is increasingly likely to be congressional leaders’ near-term fix to avoid the negative impacts of a partial shutdown.

A CR would give lawmakers more time to put together a spending deal for the next fiscal year without risking potentially furloughing thousands of government employees and pausing critical federal programs in the meantime. That deal is still being negotiated by Congressional leaders and appropriators.

‘Our speaker is doing his best, but I do think he has stopped saying, ‘This will be the last CR,’ because he sees that the Senate is almost impossible to negotiate with, with a deadline,’ one GOP lawmaker told Fox News Digital. ‘We really do need them to just stop assuming they can kick the can each and every time down the road, when all that does is build pressure on our side, on the House side with Republicans.’

When asked if another CR was the likely move, the GOP lawmaker said, ‘unfortunately.’

‘I would say that that is one of their options. Like anything with Mike Johnson, they’re not going to make a decision early,’ one senior GOP aide said.

Under a plan negotiated by Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., designed to avoid a single massive ‘omnibus’ spending bill for fiscal year 2024, government funding deadlines were split into two halves – some departments’ funding expires on March 1, while others’ runs out on March 8. 

If one or both deadlines comes without some kind of bipartisan deal on federal funding, including a CR, the government risks falling into a partial shutdown. 

Congress has so far passed three CRs to extend federal funding past the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline, including twice since Johnson became speaker. GOP hardliners opposed each effort, arguing it was an extension of the previous Democrat-controlled Congress’ priorities.

Indeed, House GOP support has been shaky each time – Johnson most recently passed a CR in January with support from 107 Republicans, and 106 voting against.

He pledged in November that he was ‘done with short-term CRs.’

Discussions of a fourth CR appear to be in the preliminary stages right now, but details are not immediately clear.

Two senior House GOP aides told Fox News Digital that one possible plan is a short-term CR with a yearlong extension of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a federal government tool used to spy on communications of foreign nationals outside the U.S. with suspected terrorism links, without a warrant, even if the person on the other side is an American citizen. That program is set to expire in April.

However, a source familiar with Johnson’s thinking swatted that plan down, telling Fox News Digital that a one-year FISA extension is not on the table nor is it being discussed.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with government funding discussions told Fox News Digital that Senate Democrats are floating the possibility of a three-week CR.

‘Democrats want to avoid a shutdown,’ a senior Democratic aide told Fox News Digital.

All sources stressed that these are early talks. 

Democrats and defense hawks are wary of pushing too long of an extension; under a deal struck by ex-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden to raise the debt limit last year, a CR extending into April would automatically trigger an 8% funding cut to non-defense discretionary spending – equal to roughly a 1% cut across the board.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in December that a full-year CR ‘would lock in outdated spending plans and devastating across-the-board cuts while locking all of us out of any kind of thoughtful decision-making process for our nation’s future.’

Meanwhile, the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Johnson on Wednesday calling on him to pass a one-year CR, arguing that the resulting spending cuts would be better than any deal he could put together with Schumer, D-N.Y.

‘If we are not going to secure significant policy changes or even keep spending below the caps adopted by bipartisan majorities less than one year ago, why would we proceed when we could instead pass a year-long funding resolution that would save Americans $100 billion in year one?’ the group wrote.

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