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House, Senate Moving Apart on Budget   09/27 06:19

   The Congress is starkly divided over very different paths to preventing a 
federal shutdown -- the Senate charging ahead with a bipartisan package to 
temporarily fund the government but the House slogging through a longshot 
effort with no real chance of finishing by Saturday's deadline.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Congress is starkly divided over very different paths 
to preventing a federal shutdown -- the Senate charging ahead with a bipartisan 
package to temporarily fund the government but the House slogging through a 
longshot effort with no real chance of finishing by Saturday's deadline.

   With days remaining before a federal closure, the stakes are rising with no 
resolution at hand.

   A shutdown would furlough millions of federal employees, leave the military 
without pay, disrupt air travel and cut off vital safety net services, and it 
would be politically punishing to lawmakers whose job it is to fund government.

   President Joe Biden, who earlier this year reached a budget deal with 
Speaker Kevin McCarthy that became law, believes it's up to the House 
Republicans to deliver.

   "A deal is a deal," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. 
"This is for them to fix."

   Late Tuesday, the Senate pushed ahead in sweeping bipartisan fashion to 
break the stalemate, advancing a temporary measure, called a continuing 
resolution, or CR, to keep government running through Nov. 17. It would 
maintain funding at current levels with a $6 billion boost for Ukraine and $6 
billion for U.S. disaster relief, among other provisions.

   It's on track for Senate approval later this week but faces long odds in the 

   The Republican McCarthy, pushed by a hard-right flank that rejects the deal 
he made with Biden and is demanding steep spending cuts, showed no interest in 
the Senate's bipartisan effort -- or the additional money for Ukraine.

   "I think their priorities are bad," he said about the Senate effort.

   Instead, McCarthy is reviving plans for the House Republicans' own stopgap 
funding measure that would slash federal spending by 8% for many agencies and 
attach a hardline border security measure that conservatives are demanding. 
He's planning a Friday vote, but Biden, Democrats and even some Republicans 
have said the package is too extreme.

   McCarthy is trying to goad Biden into negotiations over the border package, 
highlighting the record numbers of migrants crossing the Southern border with 
Mexico, but the speaker has little leverage at this point and the White House 
has downplayed the prospect of talks.

   But first, McCarthy is expected to spend much of this week trying to pass 
some of the bills needed to fund government agencies -- Defense, Homeland 
Security, Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations.

   It's a daunting task ahead. The House Republicans advanced those bills late 
Tuesday after a days of setbacks and disarray, but it is not at all clear 
McCarthy has the votes from his hard-right flank to actually pass the four 
bills this week.

   One of the key right-flank holdouts, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who 
is fighting for more cuts and opposes the funds for Ukraine, said she voted 
against advancing the package because the bills are headed toward defeat anyway.

   "I'm trying to save everybody from wasting time," she said.

   The 79-page Senate bill would fund the government at current levels and 
would include the Ukraine and U.S. disaster aid that has been in jeopardy. It 
also includes an extension of Federal Aviation Administration provisions 
expiring Saturday.

   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate bill shows 
"bipartisanship can triumph over extremism."

   Schumer said, "We all know together that a government shutdown will be 
devastating, devastating to this country."

   Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell appeared on board with the 
bipartisan Senate plan, saying, "Government shutdowns are bad news."

   The hard-right House Republicans are being egged on by Donald Trump, the 
front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, who has urged them to 
stand firm in the fight or "shut it down."

   It is setting up a split-screen later this week as House Republicans hold 
their first Biden impeachment inquiry hearing probing the business dealings of 
his son, Hunter Biden. It also comes as former Trump officials are floating 
their own plans to slash government and the federal workforce if the former 
president retakes the White House.

   McCarthy, who said he spoke to McConnell on Tuesday, brushed off Trump's 
influence as just a negotiating tactic, even as the far-right members keep 
torpedoing his plans.

   While their numbers are just a handful, the hard-right Republican faction 
holds sway because the House majority is narrow and McCarthy needs almost every 
vote from his side for partisan bills without Democratic support.

   The speaker has given the holdouts many of their demands, but it still has 
not been enough as they press for more -- including gutting funding for 
Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Washington last 
week is vital to winning the war against Russia.

   The hard-line Republicans want McCarthy to drop the deal he made with Biden 
and stick to earlier promises for spending cuts he made to them in January to 
win their votes for the speaker's gavel, citing the nation's rising debt load.

   Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a key Trump ally leading the right 
flank, said on Fox News Channel that a shutdown is not optimal but "it's better 
than continuing on the current path that we are to America's financial ruin."

   Gaetz, who has also threatened to call a vote to oust McCarthy from his job, 
wants Congress to do what it rarely does anymore: debate and approve each of 
the 12 annual bills needed to fund the various departments of government -- 
typically a process that takes weeks, if not months.

   Even if the House is able to complete its work this week on some of those 
bills, which is highly uncertain, they would still need to be merged with 
similar legislation from the Senate, another lengthy process.

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