House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told lawmakers on Monday that Congress will likely need to pass a continuing resolution when it returns in mid-September to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year.
“By September 30th, Congress must complete our work on appropriations and other expiring items, such as flood insurance and surface transportation. In July, the Democratic-led House passed legislation to fund nearly all of the government, yet to date, the Senate has not held even a single markup of an appropriations bill,” Hoyer wrote in a letter.
“At this rate, it is likely that we will have to pass a continuing resolution to keep government open past the end of this fiscal year. While that is not ideal, the House will do its job to avert a shutdown that would only further damage our economy.”
Washington lawmakers have an obligation each year to pass the twelve annual discretionary spending bills for the upcoming year before Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins. These twelve pieces of legislation fund most defense, education, energy, transportation, and environmental programs, along with a number of key social services like medical care for veterans, mental health programs, and some low-income food programs. Failing to pass these measures can lead to the shuttering of federal agencies.
The House has been able to keep up the fast pace of passing most of the 12 appropriation bills because the lower chamber can pass legislation with a simple majority vote.
While the Senate began this year’s appropriations process with the same intention, a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over amendments in committees quickly stopped forward progress. In addition, the Senate needs a supermajority of senators to bring the bills to the floor. Both of these factors have stalled the progress in the upper chamber.
The continuing resolution Hoyer referred to will fund the government into December, when Congress will face another possible shutdown during the “lame-duck session”—the time period when Congress is in session after a November election and before the beginning of the new Congress.
Hoyer, who controls the floor schedule, said that upon returning in mid-September, the House will take up legislation from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-N.Y.) MORE Act, which would decriminalize cannabis and erase nonviolent federal marijuana convictions. In addition, Democrats will also take up a resolution by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) which would condemn anti-Asian bias and bigotry related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Talks between Democrats and Republicans on a stimulus package came to a halt over differences about the size and scope of the relief package. Democrats in the House passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May, while Republicans proposed a bill worth about $1 trillion.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the White House might again take executive action if no stimulus deal is made.
“While we have all been waiting for the Senate to take action on the Heroes Act, it appears that the Republicans who control that chamber are not in a hurry to do their jobs and pass an emergency assistance package to help American workers and their families get through this economic and public health crisis,” Hoyer wrote.
“If that changes, the House will return immediately to ensure that emergency assistance is delayed no further.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report