Congress returns and works to avoid shutdown


The Senate and House are in a tight window to pass a funding measure to avoid a shutdown of the government on September 30. There is much on the agenda including an impending impeachment investigation and a funding showdown which could lead to a shutdown. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, summed up the funding situation this way.


MITCH MCCONNELL: Honestly, it’s a pretty big mess.

DETROW: But Senator McConnell faces his own questions about whether he can continue to lead his party after a second health episode this summer. Deirdre walsh, NPR’s congressional reporter joins us. Hey, Deirdre.


DETROW: Can Congress avoid a shutdown?

WALSH: You know, they don’t have a lot of time, and the House and Senate haven’t agreed to any of the 12 annual spending bills. The two chambers don’t use the same math. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with President Biden in May a deal on the debt ceiling that established overall spending levels. After a group in the House of conservatives, who did not like the deal, forced the speaker into crafting bills at lower levels they are now on a collision path with the Senate which is going along with this deal. McCarthy, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer and White House agree that Congress must pass a temporary funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown on October 1, 2018. They’re working on that, and that’s called a CR, or continuing resolution, that will fund agencies through sometime in December.

DETROW: So that seems like that’s the top priority. What’s on the fall list?

WALSH : A lot. The Biden administration is pushing Congress to act quickly on disaster aid and funding for Ukraine. The White House requested $12 billion in emergency funds for disasters. They have just asked for an additional 4 billion dollars to help Maui and the states that are recovering from Hurricane Idalia. The other big ask from the administration is $20 billion for Ukraine, but there’s a growing bloc of conservatives who oppose that, so leaders are going to have to thread the needle to get that through.

DETROW: I mentioned the threat of an impeachment inquiry. Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker, has indicated his support for such a move. What is the basis for any high crime or misdemeanor committed by President Biden? House Republicans have not found any evidence that President Biden has committed a crime. Some claim that President Biden received financial benefits from Hunter Biden’s business deals when he was vice president. However, they have not produced any proof. McCarthy is under pressure from conservatives who want to see impeachment move forward. Plus, former President Trump is urging action soon, and he has a lot of allies in the House Republican Conference.

DETROW: This comes after Trump was impeached twice in recent years. But let’s take a look at the Senate. Mitch McConnell is the top Senate Republican and, as we have been discussing the past few days, he faces a major test after he frozen while speaking in public for the second time within two months. What is going on?

WALSH : The Capitol physician cleared McConnell for work after consulting with McConnell’s neurology team. He said the top Senate Republican can continue his schedule. McConnell suffered a concussion after a fall he had in March. Brian Monahan, the Capitol physician, said that lightheadedness is a sign of concussion recovery. McConnell has received the support of his Republican Senate colleagues, but these incidents have been jarring. McConnell will be asked a lot when he returns to town about whether he is still up to the job. Thanks, Deirdre.

WALSH: Thank you.

Copyright (c) 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text is not in its final version and could be revised or updated in the future. Accuracy and accessibility may vary. Audio recordings are the definitive record of NPR programming.