WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders and White House officials agreed Monday to extend a government funding deadline by two weeks, until Dec. 21, setting up the possibility of a shutdown showdown just ahead of Christmas.
The decision, confirmed by aides involved in the talks, was made because of the observances surrounding the death of former President George H.W. Bush. The former president will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda ahead of a service at the National Cathedral on Wednesday.
The House has canceled all votes for this week.
The current deadline is midnight on Friday, Dec. 7. The House and Senate are expected to approve the new deadline at some point this week. That could be done in the House by unanimous consent, without lawmakers present to vote.
House and Senate aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the changed deadline, as they were not authorized to discuss confidential deliberations.
The new shutdown deadline does not mean lawmakers and President Donald Trump are any closer to a solution on the major issue dividing them: funding for Trump's border wall.
Trump wants $5 billion; Democrats in the Senate have agreed to only $1.6 billion for border barriers and security, and do not want to provide more. Trump long claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall, but instead the bill would be paid by U.S. taxpayers as part of funding for the Homeland Security Department.
Under the new budget deadline, funding for the Homeland Security Department and a number of other federal agencies will expire on Dec. 21 unless Congress sends Trump spending legislation before then that he signs.
Earlier this year Congress passed spending bills funding about 75 percent of the government through next September, agreeing to big increases for the Pentagon, the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies. That means any shutdown would be limited in scope, affecting only the agencies whose budgets have not yet been approved.
Nevertheless, the effects would be widespread. In addition to Homeland Security, other agencies affected include the Interior and Agriculture departments, the Department of Justice, NASA, the Commerce Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Transportation, as well as many smaller ones. These agencies employ some 600,000 federal workers.