The Senate Is Considering Novel Maneuvers to Circumvent a Shutdown

You might recall your basic civics Sentclass from when you were wearing short pants.

Not that old? Neither am I. But one of the first things I learned about Congress is that all — all — “money” bills originate in the House of Representatives.

Except when they don’t.

Money bills can and do originate in the Senate. They’re just harder to pass. Any one Senator can block a bill in many circumstances. But this is an emergency, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“We may now have to go first … given the House,” Schumer told CNN in an interview in his office. There are several complicated procedural steps that Schumer had to take, but apparently, the Continuing Resolution (CR) is teed up for early next week. “Leader McConnell and I are talking and we have a great deal of agreement on many parts of this. It’s never easy to get a big bill, a CR bill done, but I am very, very optimistic that McConnell and I can find a way and get a large number of votes both Democratic and Republican in the Senate.”

Schumer has gone ahead and put a plan in motion to pass a money bill already voted on by the House; a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. With a little parliamentary maneuvering, Schumer could attach a CR to the FAA reauthorization bill.


If Schumer’s assessment is correct, that would leave McCarthy with a choice: Either ignore the Senate’s bill altogether or continue to try to pass his own bill in the narrowly divided House where he can only afford to lose four GOP members on any party-line vote.

But McCarthy could also be jammed by a bipartisan group of members who are openly threatening to sign a petition forcing a vote in the House – if they get 218 supporters – and circumvent the speaker altogether. At the moment, McCarthy is scrambling to resurrect his spending plans to try to move 11 year-long funding bills through his chamber – even though it typically takes months to hash out differences between the two chambers on spending legislation.

The Gaetz Plan — named after firebrand Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — would see the government shut down for as long as it took to pass the 11 individual appropriations bills. It’s a gigantic waste of time. The Senate will never agree to appropriations bills that fund a Republican border plan, or withhold funding to prevent the “weaponization” of the Justice Department. And Gaetz and his nihilist pals say they won’t vote for spending bills that don’t have those and other provisions in them.

So, Congress would be back at square one. That is, unless enough House Republicans could join with House Democrats to pass the Senate’s CR.

What might attract even many on the right in the House is that the Senate’s CR bill would be “clean”: no Ukraine funding or funds for FEMA disaster relief. It would be just a straight-up funding bill for about two weeks — enough time to cobble together a bill that would bypass the GOP rebels.

Related: Democrats Issue Ransom Demands to Help McCarthy in Passing Continuing Resolution

Instead of the CR, there’s a move afoot to pass a different kind of bill altogether. What if Congress outlawed shutdowns? What if Congress passed a bill that automatically gave Congress two-week stopgap bills as long as it took to get a budget passed?

Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership proposing such a plan.

“A number of senators, on a bipartisan basis, would like a vote on a bill authored by Senators Lankford and Hassan,” the letter reads. “The Prevent Government Shutdowns Act would do exactly what the title suggests. It’s a simple bill that offers an eminently reasonable solution to one form of recurring congressional gridlock.”

The bill would tap into the enormous frustration and anger at the nihilists who are holding up the business of the two chambers.

A bill aimed at stopping government shutdowns passed through a Senate committee in 2019, though it never passed the full chamber. On Friday, the former chair of the committee, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), confirmed that he’s aware of a renewed effort that began on Friday to get a floor vote and praised the bill’s bipartisan supporters. He had sought a vote on that legislation as part of a package of spending bills this week, though that package stalled out as the Senate broke for the weekend on Thursday.

Many in Congress may be reluctant to hold a vote on a bill that continues government funding indefinitely, dramatically changing the precedent for how Capitol Hill handles shutdowns. Currently, congressional leaders can use shutdown deadlines as take-it-or-leave-it gambits to their members, empowering party chiefs to devise must-pass bills.

No one likes shutdowns. But the political process of using shutdowns as leverage to achieve party goals is wildly popular. It’s not likely to pass.

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