D.C. Download: Can Congress avoid a government shutdown?

11 November 2023

As the government shutdown deadline (again) approaches, Congress is exploring ways to kick the can down the road. Plus, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) wants Puerto Rican self-determination.

How to avoid a government shutdown

With a week to go until the government shutdown deadline on Nov. 17, the House has passed seven appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed three. The last government shutdown deadline — at the end of September — cost former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) his job when he enlisted the help of House Democrats to pass a clean funding extension, which is now facing its expiration date.

This time around, the House has a new speaker and lawmakers (and your humble newsletter writer!) don’t want to be stuck negotiating at the Capitol over Thanksgiving. Here are the various off-ramps for a government shutdown, the Nevada implications of which I detailed the last time we were at this juncture.

Clean continuing resolution

With hours to go until the government shutdown on Sep. 30, Congress passed a clean continuing resolution, extending government funding at its current enacted level for 45 days.

This is the preferred path for House Democrats, who say they will only support a short-term funding patch if there are no conservative policy strings attached. House Republicans hold the chamber by a narrow five-vote margin.

A clean continuing resolution is also the likeliest outcome in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to hold a vote on it next week, which would extend government funding through December. Such a move would create leverage — it’s not uncommon for the Senate to send an omnibus funding bill, in which a topline spending number is negotiated for overall government spending, to the House right before the holidays.

Negotiating a longer-term spending deal in December would also avoid triggering a 1 percent spending cut (as negotiated in the debt deal earlier this year) if the government is still being run via continuing resolution by the new year. Such a cut would not take effect until April.

The Senate could also pass more minibuses — they have already passed a package of three spending bills — in order to negotiate with the House.

House Republicans, who want to avoid getting jammed by the Senate, might not go for a clean continuing resolution through December. If House Republicans support a continuing resolution, it could go until January instead. 

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) said in an interview Tuesday that he would support punting the spending fight to January. Or House Republicans could implement an unusual approach …

Laddered continuing resolution

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has floated the concept of a “laddered” continuing resolution to his conference, which would involve funding some government agencies through December and others through January, creating a cascade of partial shutdown threats.

Amodei, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee and is Nevada’s only federally elected Republican, said he didn’t spend much time at the conference meeting and was still unclear on what a laddered approach would entail.

“I don’t know enough about it,” he said Tuesday. “I’m studying it.”

The idea behind the laddering is that the Senate would need to negotiate with House Republicans on each spending bill separately, or as part of smaller packages. But the danger with that approach is that House Republicans actually have to pass all 12 bills to have negotiating leverage — which has been a challenge this week, after Johnson had to pull two spending bills from scheduled votes because not enough Republicans supported them.


If no solution is reached by Nov. 18, the government will shut down. 

Cortez Masto leads Puerto Rico referendum bill

Cortez Masto introduced the Puerto Rico Status Act Wednesday, which would authorize a referendum for Puerto Rican citizens to determine their political future, including the option for statehood.

Cortez Masto, the only Latina in the Senate, introduced the bill with Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Companion legislation was introduced in the House by a group of Democrats and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, a nonvoting Republican.

The bill would provide for a federal referendum for Puerto Rico to change its current political status as a U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans could elect to pursue statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the United States, a status that allows Puerto Rico to be its own nation but enter into a political compact with the U.S. where Puerto Ricans are dual citizens. The legislation also lays out a path forward for each of those three options.

“The people of Puerto Rico deserve the right to decide their own future, and I’m proud to introduce this commonsense legislation supporting a transparent, democratic process for the island,” Cortez Masto said in a press release.

The bill passed the then-Democrat-led House in 2022, but never received a vote in the Senate.

Around the Capitol

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is taking a major lesson from elections around the country on Tuesday — abortion is a winning issue. In a new memo, first reported by Punchbowl News, the DSCC highlighted the anti-abortion positions of 2024 Nevada GOP Senate hopefuls Sam Brown and Jim Marchant.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), carrying on a legacy of past members of Congress, introduced a bill to posthumously recognize those who served in the military despite being legally barred from doing so, having been enslaved or barred by gender.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) introduced a bill in both chambers of Congress to expand a tax credit incentivizing the hiring of student veterans.

The Economic Development Administration granted $1.1 million to UNLV for renewable energy startups.

Cortez Masto and Rosen introduced a bill to permanently raise the caps on overtime premium pay for wildland firefighters. The cap was raised in the 2021 Infrastructure Law and extended again in the temporary government funding bill at the end of September.

Rosen introduced a bill to allow adult children to pay for their parents’ medical expenses out of health savings accounts.

A Cortez Masto bill to implement integrated mental and behavioral health care delivery models at primary care practices passed out of committee.

36,200 Nevadans have enrolled in the Department of Education’s SAVE plan thus far to lower monthly payments for student loan debt and limit the amount of interest borrowers have to pay.

Rosen chaired a subcommittee hearing on sustainable tourism, spotlighting the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Notable and Quotable:

“There’s no risk to the president. This is more about making sure that voters in states like Nevada and South Carolina — that reflect the diversity of our party and are the base of any candidate’s ability to win — are heard.”

— Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), to Politico, on Rep. Dean Phillips’ (D-MN) long shot presidential bid

Legislative Tracker


Legislation co-sponsored:

S.3227 — A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an alternative manner of furnishing certain health insurance coverage statements to individuals.

S.3231 — A bill to enable the people of Puerto Rico to choose a permanent, nonterritorial, fully self-governing political status for Puerto Rico and to provide for a transition to and the implementation of that permanent, nonterritorial, fully self-governing political status, and for other purposes.

S.3247 — A bill to safeguard the humane treatment of pregnant women by ensuring the presumption of release and prohibiting shackling, restraining, and other inhumane treatment of pregnant detained noncitizens, and for other purposes.


Legislation sponsored:

S.Res.454 — A resolution designating Nov. 8, 2023, as “National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Day” and celebrating the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in education and the workforce in the United States.

S.3254 — A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow expenses for parents to be taken into account as medical expenses, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.Res.452 — A resolution designating Oct. 30, 2023, as a national day of remembrance for the workers of the nuclear weapons program of the United States.


Legislation sponsored:

H.R.6316 — To amend title 40, United States Code, to establish an expiration date of certain committee resolutions with respect to leases or projects, and for other purposes.

H.R.6317 — To require the administrator of the General Services Administration to submit a report describing a process for seeking public comment about proposed changes to mandatory design standards for public buildings, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R.6249 — To provide for a review and report on the assistance and resources that the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides to individuals with disabilities and the families of such individuals that are impacted by major disasters, and for other purposes.

H.R.6277 — To amend the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act of 2016 to improve such act, and for other purposes.


Legislation sponsored:

H.R.6269 — To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish headstones, markers and medallions for graves of certain enslaved individuals and individuals who performed military functions despite ineligibility to serve in the Armed Forces.

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