Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chamber could vote as early as Wednesday on a temporary extension of funding until early December. The bill would then head to the House for a vote and to President Joe Biden for his signature.
“We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the House so it can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow,” Schumer said.
Government funding expires with the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The House had approved a combined spending extension and increase in the debt limit. But Senate Republicans blocked the bill Monday, arguing that Democrats should raise the debt limit on their own.
Senate leaders are checking to see if any senator would block a move to approve just a funding bill.
The funding bill would provide government operating through Dec. 3, to give lawmakers time to approve routine spending measures for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The bill would also provide $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday lawmakers are waiting for the Senate to send them a funding extension, which the House could ratify.
Apart from the spending decision, Congress must still tackle the debt limit. The House is set to vote Thursday on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
But progressive House Democrats oppose approving the infrastructure bill unless a $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s social welfare priorities is also resolved. Senate Republicans have argued the only way for Democrats to raise the debt limit quickly is to attach it to the $3.5 trillion package, which could further complicate those talks.
Biden postponed a Wednesday trip to Chicago, where he planned to promote the importance of vaccinations against COVID-19, in order to continue negotiations about infrastructure and social programs.
But Biden will attend a memorial service Wednesday for the late Susan Bayh, the wife of former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., at the Washington National Cathedral.
Biden has met for days with groups of Democratic lawmakers representing different factions in the debate. He has held several meetings with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who have each said the $3.5 trillion price tag is too high.
“They had a constructive meeting, agreed that we are at a pivotal moment, need to continue to work to finalize the path forward,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Tuesday.
A group of nine House moderates negotiated for a vote Monday on the measure, so it wouldn’t be tied to the more contentious $3.5 trillion package. But as progressive Democrats threatened to oppose it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moved the vote to Thursday, when the federal highway program expires.
If Republicans oppose the bill in the narrowly divided House, the loss of four Democrats could sink the measure.
A leader of the moderates, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., voiced confidence Tuesday that the vote would be held Thursday and that the bill would be approved.
“There is nothing partisan about fixing our roads and bridges and tunnels,” he said.
But the head of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said dozens of Democrats would oppose infrastructure unless they also have the final language for the $3.5 trillion package that can win approval in the House and Senate.
“This agenda is not some fringe wish list: it is the President’s agenda, the Democratic agenda, and what we all promised voters when they delivered us the House, Senate and White House,” Jayapal said in a statement.