Lawmakers race to avoid looming shutdown as blame game begins

The race to avoid a partial government shutdown before Friday’s funding deadline has intensified over the past weekend as leaders have failed to come to an agreement and traded barbs about who was responsible.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader (D-NY), announced on Sunday that Congress leaders have not yet reached a compromise on spending bills. He blamed House Republicans for this delay. But Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) shot back and placed the burden on “new Democrat demand” in negotiations.

Senate lawmakers will reconvene on Monday, and House members are expected to return on Wednesday. This leaves lawmakers with just a few days to resolve their differences, approve appropriations measures, or, if necessary, find a short-term solution. Four spending measures must be approved on Friday and the eight remaining bills by March 8.

The top four Congressional leaders will be meeting with President Biden at the White House this Tuesday to discuss the upcoming deadline for government funding and the Senate’s foreign aid package, which is awaiting House action.

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Hunter Biden will also testify this week before the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees in the GOP’s impeachment investigation into President Biden. This closed-door testimony marks a pivotal moment for the investigation, which has been met by skepticism both inside and outside of the Capitol.

The upper chamber is awaiting the retrieval of articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. However, questions remain as to how Schumer will deal with the charges.

Sprint before the shutdown deadline

Congress is focusing on government funding this week, as they face a deadline of Friday to pass four appropriations measures or risk a partial shutdown.

This is the fourth time in this Congress when members face a shutdown cliff.

The weekend ended without the release of the compromise spending bill that has been the topic of months-long negotiations, leaving lawmakers in a bind as the Friday deadline approaches.

The funding for military construction, water developments, and the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development expires Friday. Eight remaining spending bills expire March 8.

The four top Congressional leaders — Johnson and Schumer, House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), will meet at the White House Tuesday to discuss government funding, and the stalled aid package.

Last time the “four corners” met at White House was in January, to discuss additional aid for Ukraine. Johnson has, however, been pressing for a one on one meeting with Biden in order to discuss border security and national security.

The gathering this week comes after Schumer, Johnson and others played blame games over the weekend. They held each other accountable for the delay in announcing the compromise appropriations bill.

Schumer, in an open letter to a colleague on Sunday, wrote: “While we had originally hoped to be able to present legislation this weekend to give members ample time to review the text of the bill before voting it through. It is now clear that House Republicans require more time to work things out.”

He called for Johnson to “step forward to do the right thing and once again stand up against the extremists within his caucus” when it came to funding the federal government.

Johnson, on the other hand, took issue with the letter’s “counterproductive rhetoric” and wrote in a press release that the Democrats were to blame for the failure of the bicameral bill.

Johnson stated that “Leader Schumer’s letter failed to mention that many points still being discussed come from new Democrat requests that were not included previously in the Senate legislation.” In a divided government, Senate Democrats try to spend money on priorities that are further left than what the chamber has agreed.

He added that this was not the time to engage in petty politics, and noted that the House had worked tirelessly, in good faith, in order to reach an agreement with the Senate in advance of deadlines on compromise bills for government funding.

A source familiar with the situation told The Hill that Johnson wants to avoid a partial shutdown this week by passing a’minibus’ of spending bills. The source did not specify how many appropriations bills will be included in the package. However, Johnson wants to include all four measures due Friday.

Hunter Biden will testify at Capitol Hill

Hunter Biden, son of the president, will face off with Republican legislators on Wednesday in a closed door deposition. This comes at an important moment for the GOP’s investigation into impeachment.

The deposition, which is set to start at 10 am with the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, comes after several setbacks in the Republican-led investigation. It will also take place amid growing skepticism among the GOP about the strength of their case.

James Biden, president’s younger brother, testified in a transcripted interview that the president had “never been involved or had any direct or indirect interest in these activities”. And earlier this year, the Justice Department charged the FBI informant who was at the center of the GOP’s main claim against Biden. The department claimed that the confidential source fabricated the assertions he made about the president.

Hunter Biden will be the focus of the committees’ attention, as they have said for a long time that he is the key witness in the case against President Obama. Republicans have investigated the younger Biden’s personal and business life. They are also investigating allegations of “influence peddling” when his father served as vice president.

On Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, Jim Jordan (R – Ohio), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said: “We will hear what Hunter Biden has to say this Wednesday.”

The deposition on Wednesday marks the end of months of battle between Republicans in the committees, and Hunter Biden about the terms of Biden’s appearance.

In November, Republicans sent the younger Biden an official subpoena requesting that he attend the hearings. Biden made a short statement at the Capitol the following month on the scheduled day of his deposition. He refused to comply with the subpoena, and reiterated his desire to testify publicly rather than in private. Republicans had, however, insisted that Biden sit first for a deposition, before the public hearing.

Republicans moved forward with a resolution that would hold Biden in contempt. Hunter Biden’s team, however, said that he would only testify in private if the GOP issued him another subpoena before the House voted on the resolution. They argued that the original was invalid because it was sent out before the lower chamber had voted to authorise the