Congress Reaches Tentative Deal To Avoid Pre-Election Government Shutdown

Congressional leaders on Tuesday announced an agreement to avoid a government shutdown weeks before Election Day, that will fund the government for six months at agreed upon levels when funding expires on Oct. 1.

But the bill still needs to be written and passed by both chambers in time — a challenge for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), whose members have been hoping to use it as a vehicle to cut deeply into government programs.

“The Speaker and I and the President have agreed on how we’re going to fund the government for the next six months,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “It will be free of riders. This is very good.”

The vote is slated for after the August recess. The funding level is poised to be $1.047 trillion, as set in the bipartisan debt limit law last August.“Leader Reid and I have reached an agreement by which the House and Senate will approve a six-month continuing resolution in September to keep the government operating into next year,” Boehner said in a statement. “During the August district work period, committee members and their staff will write legislation that can be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law.”

Congress leaves town for a month-long recess at the end of this week. The lack of a vote before then may reflect Boehner’s inability to round up a significant number of his rank and file members on such short notice. The Senate has a busy schedule this week — which includes a cybersecurity bill and Iran sanctions — but Reid’s office said they would have no problem advancing the stopgap measure now, suggesting the holdup is in the House.

“We would like to have the votes before we leave here but it’s just — we can’t do it,” Reid said. “I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s cooperation in this matter and I hope we can face these challenges ahead with the same cooperation that we’ve had — and spirit of compromise the last few days on this issue.”

The deal, if successful, means Republican leaders have dodged a bullet — averting a shutdown fight just weeks before the election, despite the fact that House conservatives have signaled a desire to go down that road. A quiet appropriations process would be a relief for top Republicans who fear another standoff would damage their hopes on Election Day.