The Senate Friday passed a continuing resolution to keep the government’s lights on through November 15, punting it back to the House of Representatives.
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The move comes after a tense week on Capitol Hill punctuated by Senator Ted Cruz’s 21-hour marathon speech on Wednesday in opposition of the Affordable Care Act. And a battle Thursday, in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to gain unanimous consent to move forward with a vote on the Senate’s version of a CR to fund the government for a portion of the remainder of the year.
Finally, Friday afternoon, the body, in a vote of 54 to 44, passed its version of a CR to avoid a government shutdown on October 1. The Senate-passed version amended a previously passed version from the House of Representatives.
In this version, the Senate moved the funding extension up from December 15 to November 15, meaning Congressional members will have to come together once again later in the year to either pass another stop-gap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown, or pass a full budget. Additionally, the Senate’s CR stripped the House-passed version’s language to de-fund the Affordable Care Act, a signature of President Barack Obama’s administration.
The Senate-passed CR now moves to the House where it’s unclear how the Republican-controlled body will vote.
Though it looks as though legislators on the Hill could finally be agreeing to avoid a government shutdown, policy analysts at the Potomac Research Group say it’s still extremely unclear what the next three days hold since the most conservative group in the House has repeatedly voted against House Speaker John Boehner.
“We still think there will be a last-minute deal – maybe a one week continuing resolution – to avoid a shut-down, but we have to concede that a shut-down looks more likely this morning than it did 24 hours ago,” the firm said in a note to clients Friday.
PRG speculates a clearer path forward will emerge as early as Sunday – and if Speaker Boehner will be able to muster the votes to pass a “clean” CR to send back to the Senate to keep the government from shutting down. The Washington, D.C.-based consultancy also noted if the new House CR contains any language or provisions to again attempt to de-fund ObamaCare, it will again face a sure demise in the Senate, and almost guarantee a shutdown.
It's emblematic, perhaps, of the uncertainty and palpable frustration on Capitol Hill that Senate chaplain Barry Black literally asked god Friday to "deliver us from governing by crisis."
Wall Street Eyes Last-Minute Deal
Michael Block, chief equity strategist at Rhino Trading Group, said it’s the same story different verse: Congress won’t allow the government to stop functioning, they’ll agree to a last minute deal instead.
“One compromise may involve pushing back (the Affordable Care Act) for one more year,” he wrote in a note to clients Friday. “Most likely, the GOP blinks and we move on. Progress…right.”
Still, Wall Street is increasingly being shaken by the gridlock in Congress, with the major market averages shedding 0.5% Friday as fiscal uncertainty mounts.
No matter what the House decides to do the Senate-passed CR, the game of ping-pong still won’t be over. The new House-passed CR must again go back to the Senate for final approval. If the House and Senate cannot agree on some kind of compromise, payments to discretionary budgets – including defense, education, and others -- will stop at 12:00:01 a.m. ET October 1 -- the first day of the federal government’s new fiscal year.