Lawmakers face serious hurdles to pass sweeping defense bill, keep government funded

It’s that time of year again, when Congress tends to rush to fund the government. This year, two major spending bills are hitting snags with the clock ticking.

Lawmakers are scrambling to keep the government funded and pass a sweeping defense bill before a new Congress is sworn in next month.

In both cases, they face serious hurdles.

The House had been expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act this week. But, Republicans say their support hinges on ending the military’s vaccine mandate.

“What we’ve been told is the NDAA that’s coming out of the House will have language to do partially what we wanted to have happen,” Sen. Rick Scott, Florida (R), said.

The White House says President Joe Biden wants to keep the requirement.

“It would impact the readiness of the force. You’re more prone to getting COVID-19,” said Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary.

But, asked if the president would sacrifice the mandate for the must-pass bill….

“There’s still a process going -- a legislative process going. Don’t want to get ahead of that,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Meanwhile, funding for the broader federal government could expire next week. Funding it for the whole fiscal year would require wide-ranging compromise -- fast.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said the country might have to settle for a short-term bill that lasts just into the new year.

“For us to reach an omnibus agreement would only require the Democrats to move to a position closer to ours,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah (R). “When, frankly, the Republicans have the House of Representatives, and we’ll have a stronger hand at the bargaining table.”

Ten Republicans are needed to help pass a bill in the Senate.

“Turn left, Republicans, or at least don’t turn hard right,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said.

If a spending plan is not in place by late next week, the federal government faces a partial shutdown.

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