The end of the US government’s fiscal year on October 1 is fast approaching. Without a temporary fix, referred to as a Continuing Resolution or CR, all non-essential areas of the government must shutdown. The House and Senate were out on Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah and return today. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a key test vote tonight. Here is a copy of the summary of the proposed CR issued by the House Committee on Appropriations. Obviously, at some point the House and Senate need to pass the identical bills.
Tonight’s Senate vote will be on a procedural motion to move ahead with the CR that includes the amendment authored by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to speed up the approval process for energy projects. During debate on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), in order to get the key 50th vote for passage, Senator Schumer promised Senator Manchin a vote on his energy project approval reform proposal. Senator Manchin delivered on his part of the deal and provided the 50th vote for IRA approval, and now Senator Schumer is holding up his end of the bargain.
The problem is that a CR with the Manchin language doesn’t appear to have the votes to pass in either the House or the Senate. Schumer’s plan is to have the test procedural vote tonight and once it fails to get the needed 60 votes, he will proceed on a CR that does not have the Manchin project approval reform language. The hope is that, once the Manchin language is stripped out, there will be 60 votes to proceed with the bill. Obviously in a 50/50 Senate, the budget proposal will need 10 Republican Senators to join all 50 Democrats to move forward.
Senate Republican Leader McConnell knows that, with several Republicans in very tight races, he can’t afford to have Republicans blamed if there is a government shutdown. However, he and most other Republicans don’t want to give Senator Manchin a win after he provided the key vote to pass the IRA legislation. A core group of the most conservative Republican Senators are unlikely to vote for the CR under any conditions, so the fate of the legislation is very much in Senator McConnell’s hands.
The CR written by Senator Schumer keeps the government running until December 16, after the midterm elections. In addition to current funding levels for all departments of government, Congressional leaders and the White House would like to add money for Ukraine and natural disasters ranging from flooding and fires to the contaminated drinking water in Jackson, Mississippi.
There is no filibuster threat in the House; therefore, Speaker Pelosi can pass the CR without any Republican votes as long as nearly all the 221 Democrats vote in support. 70 House progressive Democrats have signed a letter to the Speaker outlining their opposition to the Manchin proposal, adding another reason to strike out the proposal in the Senate.
The funding bill looks like it will go down to the final minutes before midnight on Friday. Members of the House have been warned to stay in DC so that if necessary, Congress can work on the CR over the weekend and assure government operations are up and running next Monday. If the two bodies are close to an agreement, they can pass a 24 or 48 hour CR to keep the government open.
With the midterm elections now only 6 weeks away, the battle to control the Senate remains very much up in the air. While at the beginning of the summer there were 10 Senate seats, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, that were viewed as toss-ups, the list has been reduced to 6; though, all 10 remain worth watching.
In Florida, Senator Rubio appears to have strengthened his position in recent weeks, and Democratic incumbents in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Arizona have opened up leads above the polling margin of error.
The six remaining toss-ups include Republican seats in three swing states where the incumbent is not seeking re-election: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. Polls show close races in all three states. Television personality Dr. Oz appears to be in most trouble, while polling in both Ohio and North Carolina shows tight races. In Wisconsin, where Senator Ron Johnson is running for a third term the Senator has closed the gap between himself and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and the race is now a statistical tie, Barnes had a wider lead earlier in the summer.
In Georgia, former football great Republican Herschel Walker appears to have narrowed the lead of Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock; but all the polling is within the margin of error.
The other Democratic seat that is rated as a toss-up is Nevada, where Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro is being challenged by Republican Adam Laxalt, whose grandfather Paul Laxalt served as Senator and Governor. Las Vegas was hit especially hard by the drop of tourism during the Covid lockdown and is still recovering, making the economy a critical issue.
Nationwide, Republicans are pushing inflation and the economy as well as immigration and the flood of refugees at the border. The Fed’s decision last week to raise interest rates by 75bps will make home mortgages more difficult to afford and highlights the continuing concern voters have with inflation. Democrats have focused on the decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade and the need to protect abortion rights.
In October the candidates usually have debates, which are always nervous moments for a campaign. During a debate a candidate always runs the risk of making a big faux pas that can hurt their campaign, so they are always an important moment in the election.