Senate Majority Whip John Thune said it's possible a brief government shutdown could occur over the weekend because it could be difficult to pass a stopgap spending bill before the Friday midnight deadline.
“I know people who are gonna object to that, that want to keep pressure on the process until we get a deal. So, it would take consent obviously to do a short term CR,” the South Dakota Republican told reporters Thursday.
Asked what it would say if there was a short-term government shutdown, Thune said, “Government shutdowns are never good. If it's for a very short amount of time on a weekend hopefully it's not going to be something that would be all that harmful, but that being said, the preferable route is to keep the government open and get this done and get it done quickly.”
He also said the biggest issues in the relief negotiations are direct checks and funds involving the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Checks is complicated,” he said. “Designing that in a way that maximizes the amount that an individual or family can receive and try and target it to the people who need it the most. I think is right now one of the biggest challenges. But hopefully they can get that done and then figuring out this sort of FEMA fund. How that gets distributed and putting guardrails in there to make sure that it's not just a slush fund for state and local governments which would create a lot of problems on our side.”
Part of the dynamics are this: Democrats are not eager to pass a short-term stopgap measure because they believe more pressure will force the two sides to cut a deal.
Republicans believe they need more time to talk — a couple more days.
On a conference call with Senate Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are pushing to get the deal done immediately.
"Chuck was very adamant about shooting for tomorrow at midnight," said Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat.