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Senators Go Their Own Way on Stopgap Funding

‘We can’t pass the House bill,’ GOP chairmen say

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says his colleagues are preparing to fully revamp the temporary spending bill. “The House bill is not going to pass over here,” he said this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says his colleagues are preparing to fully revamp the temporary spending bill. “The House bill is not going to pass over here,” he said this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators are preparing to completely rework the temporary spending bill needed to keep much of government open past Dec. 22.

The legislation will be stripped of the House-passed Defense appropriations bill and a partisan measure reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which many expected. But its length will also likely change, and it may or may not carry new topline spending levels for appropriators to construct a final fiscal 2018 omnibus package.

“What I believe happens is that after we pass the tax bill on Tuesday, that gets the last unknown legislation this year out of the way and the four leaders that have to decide, should pretty quickly be able to decide on a number,” Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt said, referring to as-yet-undecided discretionary spending levels for fiscal 2018.

“I would assume once you have that number in hand, a CR that goes to either early January, which would be my preference, or mid-February,” the Missouri Republican said.

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Blunt said the Senate’s bill will have to be entirely different because “the House bill is not going to pass over here.”

The House GOP introduced its continuing resolution on Wednesday. The bill, which would extend current government funding until Jan. 19, includes the Defense appropriations bill the House has already voted on twice, additional funds for missile defense requested by the White House, the House’s CHIP bill and $2.1 billion to help bolster a health care program that allows veterans to seek private health care.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado agreed that the Senate plans to change the continuing resolution when it comes over from the House. “I think there are some priorities in the Senate, some issues regarding health care that I’m sure will have to be worked out,” he said.

Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Chairman John Boozman of Arkansas and Commerce-Justice-Science Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama both said the Senate is likely to go its own way on the next stopgap spending bill.

“We can’t pass the House bill, so I’m sure the Senate bill will be very different,” Boozman said.

Shelby indicated that if the House doesn’t attach a third disaster aid bill to the package, which House appropriators could release on Friday, Texas GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn may do it themselves.

“It’s a question of how much and where it’s going and what it’s going for,” Shelby said. “Sen. Cruz and Sen. Cornyn, our two senators from Texas, they are very interested in the substance of these disaster relief bills, because it affects Texas in a big way.”

Cornyn, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said a disaster aid package of undetermined size would be added to the stopgap fashioned in that chamber.

In addition, an extension of expiring Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorities will be added to the CR for the duration of the interim funding bill, unless an agreement is reached on a long-term reauthorization. “Unless there’s some sort of agreement reached it will be a plain extension for the term of the CR,” Cornyn said.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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