Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

House Republican Leaders Push Bare-Bones Temporary Funding

Updated on
  • Conservative objections to other provisions force changes
  • Plan may force Senate to accept whatever can pass in House

The House is set to vote on a bare-bones stopgap funding plan that would avert a government shutdown on Saturday and likely force the Senate to abandon attempts to add other provisions.

Acting on the stripped-down temporary spending plan to finance the government through Jan. 19 also would scuttle a move by a group of conservative House members to fully fund the Pentagon for the entire year.

House leaders released a plan late Wednesday that would maintain funding for government operations through Jan. 19. It includes extra funds for some Pentagon expenses and health programs, as well as $2.85 billion to keep the Children’s Health Insurance Program running through March, with some conditions. It also would extend to Jan. 19 an expiring section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorizing a government eavesdropping program.

The last provision of the bill would waive the automatic cuts to some mandatory federal programs, which would kick in because of the deficit impact of the tax overhaul passed this week. That spending cut trigger is known as PAYGO, and waiving it would make it easier for President Donald Trump to sign the tax legislation before the new year.

A package of $81 billion to assist recovery from hurricanes and wildfires would get a vote as separate piece of legislation.

Floor Vote

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morningto get both the temporary spending measure and the disaster funds ready for a floor vote, which could come later in the day. Senate leaders haven’t announced their plans for a vote.

After laying out the plan at a meeting of House Republicans Wednesday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan still faced objections from conservatives pushing to attach a $664 billion fiscal 2018 defense spending bill.

Ryan and other Republican leaders were pressuring members to support the plan, which is unlikely to get any Democratic votes.

Because of resistance from the House, Senate leaders already had kicked into next year legislation to stabilize Obamacare markets as well as any action on immigration. Senate leaders were waiting to see what eventually emerges from the House to announce their plans.

Senate Negotiations

Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican and a member of the Freedom Caucus, said the plan that the House leadership originally discussed with their members was to vote on a bill that included full funding for defense and then leave town, to force the Senate to take it or shut down the government.

He said he and his fellow conservatives never agreed to wait around for the Senate to change the legislation and force the House to swallow whatever they could pass with help from Democrats.

“I don’t understand. Do we take orders from the Senate here?” Perry said. “All your negotiations are based on trust,” he added. “When you don’t trust one another, things get a little rocky.”

Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, said Wednesday that he expects Congress to settle on a two-week extension of federal funding and deal with other issues in January, including lifting of caps on spending for defense and domestic programs.

“We’ll deal with caps and we’ll deal with all the spending issues -- military issues, and all the other issues at the beginning of next year,” he said at an Axios event in Washington.

Among the items being left until next year are two bipartisan measures designed to bring down Obamacare insurance premiums. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Maine Senator Susan Collins action on those pieces of legislation to get her vote on the tax overhaul legislation that passed the Senate early Wednesday. But a number or conservative Republicans in the House have said they won’t support the health insurance measure.

Delay

“It looks like the Christmas present of lower health insurance premiums will now have to be a Valentine’s Day present,” Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and a co-sponsor of one of the measures, said in a statement. “It is hard to add our bills to a year-end package that does not yet exist.”

Democrats have their own list of demands. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he wants more money to combat the opioid crisis plus enactment of the CHIP and Obamacare health bills, disaster relief and protection against deportation for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.” He warned against a simple funding extension that would include “some of these items but not others.”

“That won’t work. We should be doing all of these things together instead of in a piecemeal, week-by-week fashion,” Schumer said.

The immigration plan may be one hurdle out of the way for now. Republican and Democratic senators working on an immigration deal say they are closing in on an agreement combining a border-security package with deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants, though a final resolution would not come until January.

— With assistance by Laura Litvan

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