Congressional leaders announced a deal today to avoid a government shutdown on October 1. That's when the current fiscal year ends and spending bills are set to expire. As Alex Bolton, senior staff writer at The Hill newspaper explains, the deal would keep the government running for six months and leave spending at the levels agreed upon last summer.
Why are leaders from both parties agreeing to this stop-gap measure two months ahead of the deadline?
"It just goes to show how eager they are to avoid a stand-off over government shutdown at the end of the year. We've been through this already, as recently as the spring, late winter of last year, when there was a potential government shutdown. These stand-offs take up a lot of time and a lot of energy. At the end of this year, there's so much to do. That's because Congressional leaders are putting off everything until after the election, and they have a lot on their plate: the sequestration which we've talked about before and also the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. Just resolving those issues is going to take up a lot of time and energy, and they don't want the added headache of having to worry about funding levels for the federal government."
What's the timeline for actually making this deal law?
"They struck the deal today, but it hasn't been written up yet and hasn't been put on paper yet, so it can't be voted on this week. Congress is leaving for a five week Congressional recess at the end of this week, and they won't be back until the second week of September. So this will not be voted on until September, so it will be at least six weeks until this actually receives a vote on the House and Senate floors."
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to vote tonight on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District. What are the chances the bill would become law?
"I've talked to aides on the Hill, and they're not exactly sure whether this will get the approximately 290 votes to pass on the suspension calendar. The suspension bill is a way to pass non-controversial legislation. It's an expedited process, but to get bills passed, it needs a super-majority support in the House. It's not entirely clear whether it's going to have the support to pass, and it looks like it probably won't. So the question becomes: why are Republican leaders putting it on the suspension calendar to have a vote if it's not going to pass? As is the answer for most of these things as you get closer to election day, it's pure politics. It looks like they want to have a vote that they can go after Democrats on. They want to be able to campaign against various Democrats for supporting or for opposing this proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia."
Editor's note: The House bill on District abortion failed to pass in the House Tuesday.