FEARS of a government shutdown loom as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday that he “can’t guarantee” lawmakers will avoid a stalemate in December.
Congress and the Trump administration have just weeks to approve a dozen spending bills to prevent a federal government shutdown on December 11 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Though he didn’t completely rule out a shutdown, Meadows said Democrats and Republicans are trying to come to an agreement to fund government agencies and keep them open.
“Obviously we want to keep the government funded,” Meadows told reporters in Washington DC.
“It’s a high priority to make sure we keep our government funded.”
The negotiations between Congress and the Trump administration are ongoing as both parties remain fiercely at odds over funding for issues including public health and childcare.
Congress could also strike a deal on a “continuing resolution” that maintains existing federal agency funding for a short period of time.
But if neither outcome is reached, large swaths of the government will shut down.
President Donald Trump presided over the longest shutdown in US history, which lasted 35 days in 2018.
He had demanded Congress to fund a border wall with Mexico.
Congress is still deadlocked on a second coronavirus relief package, something many economists say is necessary to support hard-hit Americans and businesses as the virus continues to spread.
Talks about a second federal rescue package have stalled, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revive the conversation.
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday called on Congress to enact a law similar to the $2.2trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May.
“Right now Congress should come together and pass a Covid relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago,” he said in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before.”
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But McConnell pushed back on the president-elect’s “unserious” plan on Wednesday, claiming that the act gives “rich people in blue states” bigger tax cuts.
“House Democrats’ so-called “HEROES Act” is so unserious that it was condemned by the Speaker’s own moderate Democrats the instant she put it out,” he tweeted.”
“Huge tax cuts for rich people in blue states, but no second round of the Paycheck Protection Program? Those are their priorities?”