Stopgap funding talks bleed into weekend amid farm aid pushback

Late-afternoon optimism that a deal on temporary funding legislation was in sight turned into uncertainty Friday evening, as Democrats pushed back against the inclusion of farm payments that negotiators had earlier agreed to “in principle.”

Negotiations on the stopgap bill, which sources said would extend current funding levels through Dec. 11, were set to bleed into the weekend and have been kicked upstairs primarily to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. A House Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said legislative text wouldn’t be finalized until at least Monday.

The tentative agreement as aides described it earlier would replenish Commodity Credit Corporation funds, which have dwindled down to about $2 billion after several rounds of payouts to farmers suffering from trade disputes and coronavirus-related losses.

The agency is bumping up against its $30 billion borrowing cap as early as next month, after which it won’t be able to finance regular, nonemergency programs authorized in the farm bill.

Democrats had initially sought to keep the CCC funds out of the continuing resolution but as of Friday afternoon agreed to the proposal in exchange for extending the so-called Pandemic EBT program — short for electronic benefits transfer. The program was created in a March aid package and provides school meals for low-income children eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches but who aren’t in school to receive them.