A standoff on controversial policy riders is threatening to hurl Congress towards its third shutdown of the year as negotiations proceed at a slower than anticipated pace ahead of the March 23 deadline, The Hill reported on Wednesday.
Republicans had hoped the House would vote on a funding bill already this week to give themselves extra time for the Senate to pass it, but that timeline appears to be overly hopeful as the negotiators continue to haggle over numerous items.
GOP Sen. Richard Shelby said there were a "number of things" that still need to be resolved. However, he would not go into details other than to say that we're down not to one or two items, but we're down [to] serious stuff."
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said a major problem was that "there are a lot of riders that Republicans want to put in, poison pills that need to be taken off."
Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, had reportedly suggested dropping all riders from both parties. Shelby, however, said such an approach was more complicated than it sounds, indicating it might be difficult to even agree which policies counted as poison pills, and which were policy fixes.
One of the biggest controversies surrounds abortion, as Republicans are trying to fully defund Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions at some of its clinics, according to Vox.
The GOP wants to block the organization from receiving Medicaid and other federal funding sources, which is a nonstarter for Democrats.
However, one major issue that is already agreed upon is funding levels, as it was resolved in a bipartisan budget caps deal in February, according to The Hill.
The deal allowed spending to increase by $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for nondefense, including giving appropriators wiggle room to allocate funds.
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