House Republicans Combine Defense Increase With Funding BillBy
Stopgap measure would keep government operating until Jan. 19
Disaster aid amounts and surveillance law complicate effort
House Republicans moved forward with a plan that would dare Senate Democrats to shut down the government next week if they don’t accept a military spending bill paired with a measure to keep the rest of the government open after Dec. 22.
The plan, which has been pushed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, jettisons for now attempts to forge a bipartisan budget deal with Democrats.
The measure, known as a continuing resolution, was introduced Wednesday and is set to be voted on next week. It would keep most parts of the government open until Jan. 19 while providing full-year funding for the Defense Department, $4 billion in extra money for missile defense requested by Trump Administration in the wake of North Korean threats, and an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“This CR is not the preferred way to do the nation’s fiscal business,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “However, this resolution will allow time for the leadership of the House and Senate and the White House to come to agreement on a topline spending level for this fiscal year.”
Senate Democrats, including leader Charles Schumer of New York, have warned that attempting to push through a defense funding bill with a $73 billion increase for the Pentagon without similar increases for non-defense programs risks forcing a standoff that could lead to a government shutdown.
Republican Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania called the House GOP plan a stunt because the Senate would simply strip out the defense bill and send back a clean stopgap measure to keep the government operating. He said he hoped Republicans can strike a deal with Democrats to lift spending caps so lawmakers can pass a full government funding measure, called an omnibus spending bill, in January.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said the measure would give a five-year extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides coverage for about 9 million children from low-income families. He said that his staff has been in talks with the Senate Finance staff and he is confident that the Senate will send back a CHIP compromise that solves a dispute over how to pay for the extension.
House Republicans didn’t include Obamacare insurance subsidies or reinsurance provisions in their bill, although Walden and other lawmakers acknowledged that this could be added by the Senate. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, has made her vote on the tax bill contingent on passage of the Obamacare provisions.
Lawmakers are also considering adding a separate measure next week that would provide disaster relief for hurricane damage in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico as well as for victims of wildfires in California. Florida Representative Dennis Ross, a Republican, said members of his delegation have threatened to vote against another stopgap spending bill unless his state gets the aid first.
Texas Representative John Carter, a Republican, said a $61 billion disaster aid package has been discussed but still may be subject to change. The White House had requested $44 billion in aid. California Republican Representative Ken Calvert said relief for southern California wildfires may have to wait until next year since a disaster assessment cannot be completed by next week.
Ross said members of the Appropriations Committee told him their draft disaster bill is not yet ready. He said that this disaster bill could also carry an extension of a controversial surveillance program known as Section 702 of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which expires Dec. 31.
House Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said that including FISA could "blow up" any bill it is attached to because of intense opposition from some lawmakers. "Many of us do not believe queries should be opened on American citizens without a warrant," Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said.
— With assistance by John Fitzpatrick