Congress passed a deal last week to avoid a federal default and keep the government operating, but the bipartisanship didn’t last very long.
With the ink on the latest agreement barely dry, there’s already talk of another shutdown.
Democrats and Republicans are battling over dozens of controversial policy riders that threaten to derail the year-end deal and thrust lawmakers into a standoff.
The fight could take down the defense appropriations bill, which is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Thursday.
Democrats say they will block it unless they get a guarantee from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to send all of the other appropriations measures to President Obama’s desk.
So far, there’s no indication the GOP leader will make such a promise.
Republicans will likely agree in the end, however, to move all the spending bills together, because most voters would likely blame their party for a shutdown.
In the meantime, they are happy to stick to a piecemeal approach and collect political ammunition against Democrats who block military funding.
“I think they’re making a serious mistake,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.). “If you’re going to play games with the nation’s defense and the men and women who serve, I think it’s a bit dangerous.”
Each side is accusing the other of playing games only days after big votes in both chambers appeared to settle things.
The imbroglio must be resolved by Dec. 11, when a government funding stopgap expires.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, is warning the GOP to back off.
“Republicans should be crystal clear: If they insist on inserting poison-pill riders into the omnibus bill, they’ll be dragging us into another government shutdown,” he said.
Democrats say Republicans are trying to wriggle out of the deal by giving priority to defense spending. A core tenet of the accord was that defense and non-defense programs would be increased by equal amounts, they point out.
“It appears they still can’t get it out of their system,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said, accusing Republicans of wanting to shutter the government.