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Congress Races Against Time (and Snow) to Avoid Shutdown!

In a scene that could have been lifted straight from a holiday movie, the Senate found itself in a winter wonderland of sorts – except with less hot cocoa and more procedural votes. The setting: snowy Washington, D.C., where the Senate, after facing the dual challenges of flight delays and weather woes, hustled to push forward a stopgap spending bill. Picture this: senators, instead of dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, were instead racing against the clock to avoid a government shutdown.

With federal funds set to dry up faster than a snowman in July, Congress is scrambling to put together a financial jigsaw puzzle. The mission? To extend funding just a bit longer, by seven weeks to be exact. It’s like asking for an extension on a term paper, except the consequences involve a bit more than a grade point deduction.

The Senate, in a flurry of activity, managed to move forward with a procedural vote on Tuesday night. This was after Mother Nature decided to throw in some travel curveballs, because why make things easy? The new continuing resolution, unveiled over the weekend, is essentially Congress’ way of saying, “Let’s keep the lights on a little longer, folks.”

However, there’s a twist in the tale. The possibility of a brief shutdown still looms like a cloud over the Capitol, mostly because the Senate needs unanimous agreement to fast-track the package. Without it, the debate could stretch past the Cinderella hour on Friday, the deadline to fund various critical departments like Transportation-HUD and Military Construction-VA. It’s like trying to defuse a budgetary bomb before the clock strikes midnight.

In the midst of all this, Congress is also trying to lay the groundwork for the fiscal 2024 spending bills. But here’s the catch: they can’t even start this work until they get the topline numbers for each of the 12 individual spending bills. It’s like trying to bake a dozen different types of cookies but not knowing how much flour or sugar you have. Subcommittee chairs are eagerly waiting to dive into these numbers, probably like kids on Christmas morning.

By the new deadlines, March 1 and March 8, the 2024 fiscal year will be more than 40 percent over. It’s a bit like showing up to a party when it’s halfway through – sure, you can still have fun, but you’ve missed a good chunk of the action.

In a blend of weather-induced delays, procedural hiccups, and the typical Congressional hustle and bustle, this spending bill saga is more gripping than any snow day. So, as we wait to see if Congress can pull off this budgetary ballet before time runs out, grab your popcorn (or maybe a warm blanket) and stay tuned. Who knows, maybe they’ll surprise us all and finish with time to spare – or, at least before the next snowstorm hits!