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House Democrats Tank Two Suspension Bills

Pelosi: Bill not problematic, suspension is

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., participates in the House Democrats' news conference on health care reform in the Capitol on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., participates in the House Democrats' news conference on health care reform in the Capitol on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans hoping to quickly clear some must-pass items from their to-do list before August recess brought up two bills Monday under a fast-track procedure only to have Democrats shoot them down.

Both an intelligence reauthorization bill and legislation renewing funding for a veterans’ health program were brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules, a process that requires two-thirds support for passage and bypasses. Both failed.

When a bill goes to the rules committee it can be amended and provides for more thorough debate on the measure. Two GOP aides said Monday they expect the suspension bills to come up again this week under a rule, which would only require a simple majority vote for passage.

Democrats objected to the intelligence reauthorization because it was not open for amendment. It failed 241-163, meaning it would have passed if had been brought up under a rule. All but 10 of the “no” votes came from Democrats.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to colleagues Sunday saying it is “unacceptable” that the bill would not be fully open for debate when critical intelligence decisions are being made and investigations remain ongoing into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“Although the underlying bill is not problematic, taking it up under suspension is,” the California Democrat said. “This bill which authorizes tens of billions of dollars for the U.S. Intelligence Community should be considered under regular order and a rule.”

The House Liberty Caucus, a small group of mostly Republicans led by Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, also objected to the fast-track process on the intelligence measure; several members of the caucus voted against it.

Immediately after the intelligence reauthorization failed, the House also defeated a measure to add $2 billion in funding to the Veterans Choice Program, which provides a route to private care for certain veterans having difficulty getting medical care at traditional Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Absent congressional action, the program is expected to run out of money in mid-August; the bill was expected to extend funding for roughly six months. The measure failed 219-186, with 182 of the “no” votes coming from Democrats. If the 219 “yes” votes hold, the measure would be able to pass under a rule.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe in a statement said Republicans and Democrats agreed on the parameters of the stopgap measure during a meeting last week so he was “disappointed” to hear Democrats raise concerns Monday about the lack of additional resources the bill provides.

“I will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure the Choice Fund does not run out of money so veterans can continue to access care,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Veterans Affairs ranking member Tim Walz said on the floor Monday he agrees that not passing additional funding for the program before the recess is unacceptable. “But not getting a bill that the senate can agree on and the president can sign is also not acceptable,” the Minnesota Democrat said.

Both measures could hit the floor again this week after Rules Committee Action.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions confirmed he’s expecting both measures to go before his panel this week.

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.