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Stopgap Bill Adds Money for Flint, Paves Way for Mattis Confirmation Vote

Heads off partial shutdown by extending funding through April 28

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers described Tuesday’s stopgap spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown as a “Band-Aid.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers described Tuesday’s stopgap spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown as a “Band-Aid.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional negotiators released a stopgap spending bill Tuesday night to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday and to fund federal agencies and programs through April 28.

Final details of the 70-page continuing resolution were hammered out behind closed doors Tuesday while both Republicans and Democrats warned that various provisions and possible additions to the package were causing problems.

The measure includes $170 million in aid to rebuild water systems in Flint, Michigan, following a lead poisoning crisis, plus a boost of roughly $10.1 billion in uncapped war funds, divided between the Pentagon and the State Department.

The package maintains the fiscal 2017 budget cap level of $1.07 trillion of combined defense and nondefense base discretionary spending put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“This legislation is just a Band-Aid, but a critical one,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said in a statement “It will give the next Congress the time to complete the annual appropriations process, and in the meantime, take care of immediate national funding needs.”

The House is expected to pass the package on Thursday and the Senate on Friday. Among the highlights:

Pentagon nominee

The CR includes an expedited process for Senate consideration of a bill next year with language that specifically exempts the next secretary of Defense confirmed by the Senate from a law that requires retired officers to be out of the service for seven years before being considered for the post.

The expedited process is designed to smooth the path for Donald Trump’s nominee, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who left the service three years ago. It would limit debate, meaning cloture would not be needed, but three-fifths of senators would need to vote in favor of passage of the bill.

Democrats had opposed any legislative provision that might shorten the debate on Mattis, and their stance could complicate prospects for the CR. New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer, the Senate’s incoming minority leader, told reporters that the Mattis nomination should not be “short-shrifted through a CR.”

War funds

The spending package includes more than $10 billion in additional uncapped war funding to combat the Islamic State and for other military and diplomatic efforts. Of the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations money, $5.8 billion is for the Pentagon and $4.3 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Those levels are close to a recent request for additional OCO dollars from the Obama administration. Combined with an increase in base discretionary defense spending, it puts the defense total $8 billion higher than current levels, according to the House GOP summary.

Flint aid

The stopgap funding bill would approve $170 million in aid for Flint, Michigan, where widespread poisoning brought nationwide attention to problems with drinking water and the need to update pipes and other infrastructure.

The funding in the CR would fall short of the $220 million approved in a Senate water resources bill that passed in September, but still appears to have the broad support.

The House fiscal 2017 Interior-Environment spending bill, which passed in July, included a rider by Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee that would have allowed states dealing with drinking water emergencies such as in Flint to tap into their Drinking Water Revolving Funds to resolve the issues.

Campaign finance

The CR contains controversial riders on campaign finance and political activities, according to an appropriations aide.

The text continues language that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from finalizing a rule that would require public companies to disclose more about their donations to outside groups, such as trade associations, that engage in political spending. It also maintains another provision that prevents the Internal Revenue Service from issuing new guidance about what constitutes political activity by nonprofit organizations.

Retired miners

The spending package would direct a transfer of $45 million from a fund used to clean up and reclaim abandoned open-pit mines to the United Mine Workers Association 1993 Benefit Plan to ensure continued coverage of some 16,000 former coal workers and their families.

That funding for the retired miners’ health care program — touted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday morning — would only last for the duration of the CR. Coal-state lawmakers led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia were insisting on a long-term overhaul.

Legislative branch

The measure keeps intact the freeze on member salaries. Lawmakers have not given themselves a raise since fiscal 2010.

The spending package also effectively commandeers a federal building, instructing the General Services Administration to transfer custody, control, and administrative jurisdiction over the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Building to the Architect of the Capitol. At the foot of Capitol Hill, the building had already begun housing some committee and support staff who have lost office space during the $757.7-million renovation of the Cannon House Office Building.

John M. Donnelly, Niels Lesniewski, Elvina Nawaguna, Kate Ackley, Jeremy Dillon and Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.  

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