U.S. Capitol at dawn (copy)

In this file photo, the U.S. Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House and Senate are expected to fast-track yet another stop-gap spending measure next week to prevent a federal government shutdown Thursday.

But the new target deadline — Dec. 20 — could make for a not-so-merry Christmas for lawmakers as they attempt to hash out a long-term spending plan while the Democrat-led impeachment of President Donald Trump approaches its expected vote in the House next month.

When Congress passed the temporary spending measure that runs out Thursday, House and Senate leaders said they were optimistic they could work out a long-term plan to fund government through Sept. 30, 2020, the end of the budget year.

That hasn't happened yet, so they are giving themselves a new deadline just before the Christmas holidays. In the meantime, federal spending will remain at its current levels.

U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall is "one of the holdups" that has yet to be worked out in the long-range plan.

“Those negotiations are going on, but the wall is a big sticking point,” he said. “Hopefully we can come to an agreement over it.”

Trump has signaled to leaders that he would veto the long-term budget if it doesn't include the funding he wants for the wall.

Members from both chambers and both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration over the need for another temporary fix, formally known as a "continuing resolution" or "C.R." in Congress-speak.

"This is evidence of failure, not of success," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland. "It is absolutely essential that we pass the C.R. to keep our government operating, but it is an indication that we have not gotten our business done as we should."

Hoyer accused the Senate of being beholden to Trump's whims.

"They need the president to say, 'Simon says,'" Hoyer said. "I know that for a fact based upon conversations with leadership in the Senate."

Scalise said it would be a waste of time to pass something that Trump wouldn't agree to sign.

"The president is part of this process," Scalise said.

Also tangled up in the gridlock is an effort to provide a long-term extension for the National Flood Insurance Program. There are about half a million NFIP policyholders in Louisiana. The program also is set to expire Thursday if it doesn't get a similar extension. Like last time, it could be added to the spending proposal and get another temporary reprieve. 

Meanwhile, Congress has been consumed by the ongoing impeachment inquiry's public debut with two open hearings this week. The review of allegations that Trump sought to leverage foreign aid to Ukraine for his own political benefit had been playing out behind closed doors for weeks.

That changed when acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and George Kent, deputy assistant in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the U.S. Department of State, gave public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, and ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday.

Trump has repeatedly denied he did anything impeachable, and he has tweeted criticism of the three public witnesses' testimony.

Louisiana's Republican members of Congress have been fierce defenders of Trump amid the impeachment probe, while U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, the lone Democrat in the delegation, supports impeaching Trump.

House Democratic leaders are charging toward an expected vote on articles of impeachment by the end of the year — setting up the potential for a collision with the new spending deadline that threatens a government shutdown just before Christmas.

The U.S. House is scheduled to be off the week of Dec. 16, the week the next temporary spending measure expires, but Hoyer warned members they shouldn't make plans to be outside of Washington, D.C., for the holidays.

"If, in fact, we do not fund government by the 20th, they may well be here longer than that," he said. "We will not leave here without funding the government of the United States of America."

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.