GOP Plan To Avoid September Shutdown: We'll Get Back To You Later

After its recess, Congress only has about a dozen days to figure out government funding.

WASHINGTON — With government funding set to run out at the end of September, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set a timeline Thursday for deciding how to keep the money flowing: He’ll see you in September.

“We’re gonna discuss how to fund the government after the August recess,” McConnell told reporters at a news conference held to hail passage of a bipartisan highway bill. “For the moment, we’re still trying to move bills that have bipartisan support.”

McConnell noted that the appropriations committee has passed all 12 of the measures that are meant to fund the government, but Democrats have blocked them from moving on to final passage.

“That was obviously designed to force some discussion in the fall about how to fund the government,” McConnell said.

Democrats have lamented repeatedly, however, that the bills are all partisan, and that they adhere to a GOP budget plan that boosts defense funding at the expense of other domestic priorities.

Democrats earlier in the year said they would block the bills to force Republicans to negotiate with them early, before it comes down to a crisis in the fall.

McConnell did not directly address whether he was worried about the stack of major issues that were getting bumped to the fall -- including government funding, the Iran bill, the debt limit and a long-term highway bill.

Asked if he now would start talks with the White House on spending, McConnell said he would not.

“We’re not talking about negotiation today,” he said. “When we come back after August, we’ll discuss the way forward on getting the government funded.”

There are only about a dozen days that Congress will be in session in September, leaving very little time to work out a deal before the deadline.

Matters could also be complicated if Republicans who want to defund Planned Parenthood succeed in attaching that to a government funding bill, which Democrats would oppose.

Speaking soon after McConnell in their own news conference, Democratic leaders said they would be united in opposing any bill defunding Planned Parenthood.
They also asked McConnell to reconsider waiting until the final days to work out an agreement, and to avoid passing legislation that either looks like the GOP budget or the mandatory cuts that would be required under the automatic sequestration rules mandated after the 2011 budget showdown.
“We are urging the Republican leaders … to sit down and negotiate,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
"Wait till the last minute? September’s going to be quite busy," Schumer said. "If Sen. McConnell thinks he's going to pass a sequestration bill that cuts domestic programs dramatically, cuts defense, and say, 'Take it or leave it,' he’s risking a government shutdown, plain and simple. So we want to sit down tomorrow, this afternoon, and start talking about our views and their views -- no one’s going to get everything they want."
"The McConnell strategy seems right headed over the cliff of a government shutdown,” Schumer added.
This story has been updated to include comments from Schumer.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.