With assists from POLITICO’s Congress team
TICK TOCK: The government will shut down in 6 days if Congress can’t pass a funding patch.
HOUSE: INFINITY WAR; SENATE: ENDGAME?
Congress isn’t back in session yet (a restful Yom Kippur to those observing), but Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still scrambling for a deal to fund the government that can pass the House and appease his right flank.
Which leaves Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to move ahead this week on a bill that, by the time the shutdown clock ticks below 100 hours, may still be the only option on the table in Washington. And remember, nothing is final until the bill drops.
What you need to know about the emerging Senate plan: Schumer started advancing a shell late last week to serve as the vehicle for a stopgap bill that would keep the government open past Saturday. Behind the scenes, Senate party leaders are hashing out the specifics so that they can move to final passage as soon as possible this week.
And that means moving quickly. The House is set to vote late Tuesday on four spending bills that – let’s be clear – may not even pass along party lines and still would not address the shutdown that looms at week’s end.
What’s in it? Senators are still discussing what its government funding patch will look like, but don’t be surprised if it’s short – think around four to six weeks – and pretty darn clean.
That’s because any bipartisan Senate solution needs to pass muster with its conservatives, who can delay passage by declining to grant unanimous consent, and with McCarthy, who is trying to save his speakership from more conservative fury.
Translation: Expect minimal to no new Ukraine aid to avoid a Sen. Rand Paul problem. The Kentucky Republican is on record vowing to slow down any bill that contains more money for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s fight against Russia. The Senate bill also might scrimp on the Biden administration’s disaster aid request – which would present its own challenges, given that Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is seeking a standalone vote on that cash.
But by punting a possible shutdown into later in the fall, senators would buy themselves more chances to come back at those priorities.
Floor watch: Senators will take a procedural vote on Tuesday evening to advance the House’s FAA bill as a potential avenue for their funding debate. That’s by design – federal aviation law expires on Oct. 1 along with government funding, so whatever plan prevents a shutdown would also need to extend aviation policy to avoid disruptions in the sky.
Unanimous consent from all 100 senators to pass the bill will be needed to avoid a brief shutdown. Such agreement often comes together pretty darn close to the deadline.
McCarthy: Far From Home: If the Senate can pass a relatively clean funding patch, party leaders hope the speaker will find it easier to jam through. Still, it’s hard to see how the California Republican gets anything through the House without seeking Democratic votes, which runs the risk of conservative members bringing up a vote to oust him.
— Burgess Everett and Daniella Diaz
GOOD EVENING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Monday, Sept. 25, where we hope you got a restful weekend ahead of the chaotic week.
CONSERVATIVE SENATE HOPEFULS EAGER TO BE TUBERVILLE 2.0
Even as Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blanket hold on military promotions continues to wreak havoc on the Hill, conservative Senate candidates are touting him on the trail as a role model.
Senate primary season is only just beginning, but Tuberville’s blockade is becoming a litmus test for GOP conservatives and moderates eager to position themselves on a question that’s dividing their party — what post-Roe national abortion policy might look like.
Ohio GOP Senate candidate Sec. of State Frank LaRose, who’s scrapping for the nomination to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) next year, told Huddle that he’s on Team Tuberville.
The Alabamian “is standing up for life and the Biden administration’s assault on the innocent, which is the same position I would support in the Senate,” LaRose said.
John Findlay, Senate campaign manager for Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) in his primary battle against Gov. Jim Justice (R-W.Va.), said that “Congressman Mooney supports Senator Tuberville’s hold on all civilian nominations and military promotions until the Department of Defense rescinds its policy to facilitate taxpayer-funded abortions.”
Whoever wins the Mooney-Justice race would take on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) next year, should Manchin stand for reelection.
Justice is considered the overwhelming favorite in that primary, but he and LaRose aren’t the only conservatives who sound ready to mimic Tuberville’s tactics should they get elected. That means Senate leaders in 2025 could find themselves dealing with multiple members willing to gum up the works to extract concessions — changing the culture of a chamber that often runs on consent from all 100 members.
Where others stand: Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), a potential candidate in the GOP primary battle to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), has openly supported Tuberville’s holds. Scott Parkinson, a Republican running for Senate in Virginia who’s been racking up endorsements from conservative nominees, is also on board.
Parkinson said in June that “Tuberville is a great example” of “asserting his individual power and making them come to him.”
Hung Cao, who’s also running for the nod to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) next year, said on a podcast this month that abortion “is a state-level issue, and it belongs at the state level. Right? I mean, this is where I actually agree with Sen. Tuberville, is that he’s holding up 250 flag and general officer promotions.”
Cao, who comes from a military background, added that while he understands the difficulties for officers, he knows whose lives are stuck in limbo over the holds, long-standing government policy “says you cannot use federal funds for abortion.”
It’s not yet clear where Democratic leadership plans to go next to try to break through Tuberville’s holds after scheduling three individual votes last week. But the senator has made abundantly clear that his plan to block the nominees hasn’t changed.
— Ursula Perano
WHAT FETTERMAN’S NON-ENDORSEMENT TELLS US ABOUT NJ-SEN
It’s rare for a senator to help fundraise for a colleague’s primary challengers. It’s also unusual to fundraise for someone you haven’t actually endorsed.
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) did both Monday afternoon on behalf of Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who’s announced he’ll primary Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) next year.
Of course, it’s even more unprecedented for a sitting senator to be indicted for taking alleged bribes of gold bars and cash – which happened to Menendez last week.
So let’s call this one of Fetterman’s less boundary-breaking moves after, last week, issuing an official statement that called House Republicans “jagoffs.”
“I’m asking if you’ll split a donation between our campaign and Andy Kim. Will you chip in today?” read the fundraising email sent by Fetterman’s campaign.
“I want to be clear — I am not endorsing Andy Kim or anyone right now,” the email added. “But I am committed to ensuring that Senator Menendez has a rigorous primary opponent in case he makes the ill-advised decision to continue running for re-election, for the sake of the people he represents.”
What this really means: Fetterman is one of only two sitting senators who’ve called on Menendez to resign, even as New Jersey’s Democratic governor joins a flood of other in-state officials pushing the indicted incumbent to leave his seat. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who’s facing a difficult reelection next year, on Monday afternoon became the second – so far – to call for Menendez’s resignation.
We emphasize “so far” because it’s hard to see how the duo stands alone for long, given the gravity of the charges outlined in the indictment.
But it’s also a little early for Fetterman to lend his progressive clout to any one potential challenger, which explains his careful statement that he wants to help Kim without explicitly endorsing. As blowback continues to grow against Menendez in his home state and beyond, it’s likely we see other New Jersey Democrats join the race to succeed him.
The seat is highly likely to stay blue, making it an appetizing opportunity for ambitious Democrats, even if it means fighting it out in an unpredictable primary first.
More from the man himself: Menendez has shown no signs of backing down from his seat after his indictment. In a Monday morning presser, however, he declined to say whether or not he’s proceeding with plans to run for reelection next year.
— Ursula Perano
Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) defended Menendez on Sunday (surprise, surprise).
McCarthy’s challenge coin is very … telling!
Kyrsten Sinema pitches donors on a ‘path to victory’ in Arizona by courting Republicans, from Sahil Kapur at NBC News
Moody’s warns US government shutdown would be ‘credit negative’, from Davide Barbuscia at Reuters
TOMORROW IN CONGRESS
The House is in session.
The Senate is in session.
TUESDAY AROUND THE HILL
Quiet so far.
FRIDAY’S ANSWER: David DeAngelo correctly guessed that Thomas Brackett Reed (R-Maine) was the 19th-century speaker of the House was known as a “czar” for transforming the chamber’s rules and the power of the speakership, including ending the minority’s delay tactic known as a disappearing quorum.
TODAY’S QUESTION from David: When was the last election cycle Democrats lost a Senate seat while their presidential nominee was winning the state?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected].
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Follow Daniella on X at @DaniellaMicaela.