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House GOP Leaders Pushing for Stopgap Spending Bill

Securing last-minute votes may be needed

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., predicts passage of a stopgap spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., predicts passage of a stopgap spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House GOP leaders are moving forward with a vote Thursday on a stopgap spending bill and a short-term extension of government surveillance powers lasting through Jan. 19, although they were working late Wednesday to secure some last-minute votes to pass it.

Several members of the House Freedom Caucus were withholding their support when leadership whipped the plan Wednesday evening.

But some later agreed to support the continuing resolution and short-term reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act based on agreement with leadership that an eventual long-term FISA reauthorization be brought up as a standalone measure with requested amendments made in order.

“Freedom Caucus members have met with leadership this evening and discussions have progressed nicely,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said. “While there are still a number of members who are accessing their votes for tomorrow’s CR, several members have switched to yes based on agreements on FISA reauthorization guidelines supported by leadership.”

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It was not immediately clear if that deal was enough to solidify support for the CR. As of Wednesday night a total number of Freedom Caucus “yes” and “no” votes were still being determined, Meadows said. 

Leadership had shown confidence in the plan even before striking the deal with the Freedom Caucus. Earlier Wednesday evening they cleared the House Rules Committee to meet on the measure later that night, setting up a Thursday vote.

However, the Rules Committee was still awaiting bill text late Wednesday and was expected to push the meeting to early Thursday.

“We’re going to pass that,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry of the CR. “We’ll pass that tomorrow. We’ll pass disaster and funding the government, and we’ll leave tomorrow.”

Asked if they’ll have the votes for that, the North Carolina Republican said, “Yeah, we’ll have the votes.”

“I feel very good about the whip check,” McHenry added. “I have not seen it yet, but I feel very good about it based on my conversations on the floor. So tomorrow will be a good day. Get it done.”

Several members said the continuing resolution is also expected to include a short-term patch ensuring states will be able to access funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An $81 billion disaster relief supplemental to help communities impacted by hurricanes and wild fires is expected to move separately from the CR.

The three-dozen member Freedom Caucus has leverage over the CR only because Democrats are expected to withhold their support.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is urging the Democratic Caucus to vote against the stopgap absent “respect for our values and priorities.” Those include parity in increasing the sequestration caps on defense and nondefense spending, support for a measure to provide young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and funding for opioids, veterans, pensions and the National Institutes of Health.

Meadows suggested earlier Wednesday it’s not just Freedom Caucus members withholding their support for the CR.

“There is a coalition between defense hawks and Freedom Caucus who believe that we need to make sure we give our military what they need and deserve,” he said. “And yet at the same time we’ve got everything coming together, colliding together on Dec. 22 and another chamber we have to work with, but hopefully you get all this done.”

Many members are angry that GOP leaders reversed course on a plan to fully fund defense through the end of the fiscal year, with some objecting to the CR because of that.

Leaders told the conference the decision was made because they didn’t have the votes to advance the original plan, which had included attaching the disaster supplemental that conservatives balked at once they realized it would authorize $81 billion in un-offset spending. 

Rep. Bradley Byrne left the GOP conference meeting Wednesday evening when leadership announced the plan within minutes of it starting, sayings he was “bitterly disappointed” GOP leaders were backing off the plan to advance the full defense bill with a CR for other agencies. The Alabama Republican said he would not support the stopgap for all agencies leadership is now pitching.

The CR is expected to include some defense anomalies that would allow increased spending for things like missile defense. Democrats have panned that as an attempt to bypass caps on sequestration that affect government spending.

The FISA reauthorization was another issue that caused some ire. While the plan is just to do a short-term FISA extension for the length of the CR, Freedom Caucus members wanted assurances that the long-term plan will not include a controversial provision that would allow the government to spy on Americans under certain circumstances.

“We believe that reforms have to happen to the FISA reauthorization,” Meadows said. “Spying on American citizens without a warrant is not acceptable. It violates the constitution.”

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Scott Perry said he will not for a CR if it includes any extension of FISA because he is opposed to the law.

Kellie Mejdrich and Paul Krawzak contributed to this report. 

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