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House Likely to Vote on Stopgap Funding Through Dec. 22

Bill would buy more time for negotiations as shutdown deadline approaches

Speaker Paul D. Ryan holds his weekly on-camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan holds his weekly on-camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans are preparing a stopgap spending bill that could fund the government through Dec. 22, according to two House GOP sources.

The House Republican Conference is expected to discuss the stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution, during a meeting Friday morning, according to a senior House GOP aide.

Such a bill would buy more time for negotiations as the deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown inches closer. But, Senate aides said there was not yet bicameral agreement on the date or content of the measure, though time is short before the current stopgap bill expires Dec. 8.

Even if House and Senate Republicans fully support that stopgap spending measure, it won’t be able to pass the Senate without some Democratic support, which is not a guarantee.

The two parties have been at odds this week about spending issues after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer opted not to attend a meeting at the White House, after President Donald Trump tweeted that he did not see a deal.

Ryan: House Will Pass Short-Term CR, Shutdown Up to Senate Democrats

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“You’ve got to show up if you want to make your point and I don’t think the Democrats are in a very good position to be making demands, if they are not even going to participate in the negotiations that are necessary to move legislation forward and solve problems,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said.

The Wisconsin Republican added that GOP lawmakers are discussing how long the second stopgap should last and indicated that such a bill could pass the House without Democratic support.

“We will pass a short-term CR to keep the government open. And if the Senate Democrats choose to filibuster, then they will have chosen to shut the government down,” Ryan said.

Democrats have a slightly different take on whom to blame should a spending bill not reach the president’s desk in time.

“The Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate and the White House. The responsibility to keep government open is theirs,” Pelosi said.

House Republicans might have their own issues with a short-term stopgap. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, has called for a new CR to extend into next year, to avoid decisions having to be made in the run-up to the winter holidays.

“I’d be very surprised if any Freedom Caucus members support a two-week CR,” Meadows said Thursday, though he noted his caucus has not taken an official position. 

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker is not pleased with the prospect of a CR through Dec. 22.

“I think it sets a bad precedent, a bad tone. So, are we happy about it? No. Will that probably be the only option to play with now? Probably yes,” the North Carolina Republican said.

No disaster aid in next CR

Whether such a bill could pass the Senate remains to be seen. Republicans could attach a third disaster aid bill, which will be upward of $44 billion, to the CR. That would make it difficult for Democrats to vote no. But Ryan indicated Thursday that would not happen because appropriators won’t be able to draft that legislation in time.

“Let’s just say there was a level of dissatisfaction with these delegations with the [Office of Management and Budget] submission,” Ryan said, referring to lawmakers from California, Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands being frustrated with the administration’s $44 billion proposal. “We have asked the appropriators to get together with these delegations to discuss the disaster supplemental and work with them on compiling a disaster supplemental.”

“We do anticipate moving as quickly as we can. But we do know a few days is not going to do it,” Ryan continued.

Another CR into next year seems almost inevitable at this point, as appropriations staff need about three weeks to rework all 12 fiscal 2018 spending bills to new spending levels before they could be ready for floor votes in each chamber. With a crush of other time-sensitive issues to address before the year is out, it appears increasingly likely appropriators will need to keep working on their bills into the new year.

Spending caps in play

Contributing to the uncertainty is a lack of clarity on how much money appropriators will even have to parcel out to the 12 subcommittees. At the meeting that Pelosi and Schumer pulled out of, congressional leaders and Trump were scheduled to address year-end spending issues, including how much to increase statutory caps. 

Since then, both political parties have started pre-blaming each other for a possible government shutdown should a bill not be signed before midnight Dec. 8.

“We were going to talk to the president respectfully, but also make the case for why the caps have to have the parity we have talked about, because our national security and the strength of our country measured in a few different ways depends on it,” Pelosi said Thursday.

Republicans had previously offered Democrats a $37 billion increase to nondefense discretionary spending and a $54 billion increase to defense discretionary spending during fiscal 2018. But that offer was rejected.

“They think parity is 54-37. We are saying that isn’t even close,” Pelosi said.

However, even $37 billion is far too high for some GOP conservatives. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, said the group’s members support raising the statutory cap on defense spending, but not on nondefense spending.

“We’re for breaking the caps on defense,” Jordan said Thursday at a “Conversation with Conservatives” forum. “Obviously, we’re not there on the nondefense caps. That’s not what we campaigned on. That’s not what the voters elected us to do.”

David Lerman and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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