Deal To Keep The Government Running Past Sept. 30 Eludes Congress

Sep 23, 2016
Originally published on September 23, 2016 8:30 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Congress had just one thing to do this month - keep the government funded past September 30 because lawmakers take a recess in October. In theory, a straightforward task, but nothing is simple in Congress. And as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, there still is no deal in sight.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: There was this fantasy circulating the Senate last week that they would be able to wrap up business and head home three weeks early to get back to campaigning. It was such a widely adopted fantasy many senators, like Republican John Thune of South Dakota, had a ready explanation for why it wouldn't be worth sticking around for the rest of September after they got the spending bill done.

JOHN THUNE: I mean, I think doing anything else requires a high level of cooperation, which probably between now and November 8 isn't going to exist around here.

CHANG: Turns out, there wasn't even enough cooperation to get out of town early.

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HARRY REID: We're in no hurry to go anyplace place, OK? We're - have a lot of time.

CHANG: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democrats in both chambers say the latest offer by Republicans is a no-go. So far, the only things both sides can agree on are keeping the government open through December 9 and providing emergency aid to fight Zika without restricting funds for Planned Parenthood. It was progress, but the latest Republican proposal also contains flood aid for Louisiana and other states without providing any aid for the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich. Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York says that is unacceptable.

CHUCK SCHUMER: The question is they want to put Louisiana in, and we said you can't put Louisiana in unless you put Flint in.

CHANG: But treating these disasters as inseparable offends Republicans like Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who says the people in Flint can be taken care of after the election. Flood victims in Louisiana cannot wait that long.

BILL CASSIDY: We shouldn't hold folks, who right now still have mud in their house and are thinking of throwing the keys to their house on the table of their banker because they cannot afford their mortgage, hostage to other people's grief.

CHANG: There's also a squabble over a provision that would prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from forcing companies to disclose political spending. It's current law, but Democrats want it out. By the end of the week, negotiations in the Senate were deadlocked. Meanwhile, over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan tried to sound reassuring.

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PAUL RYAN: We're going to have a no-drama moment here, a low - I should say there's never no drama around here. We're going to have low drama.

CHANG: Or so he hopes. Ryan will need House Democrats to get this bill through because many conservative Republicans have already said they're voting no. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.