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Latest Looming Shutdown Could Scuttle House Democratic Retreat

Funding deadline falls amid minority party’s annual issues confab

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer says House Democrats won’t go on their annual retreat next week if there is a shutdown threat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer says House Democrats won’t go on their annual retreat next week if there is a shutdown threat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats have a scheduling problem. Their retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, is booked for next week — right in the middle of the next shutdown clash as the current stopgap funding bill expires Feb. 8. 

And if Democrats continue to oppose a continuing resolution absent a broader spending deal, they may inadvertently be increasing the odds they’ll have to cancel or delay their annual issues confab.

Their retreat is scheduled for Feb. 7-9, and the prospect of another government shutdown on Feb. 8 looms with the House currently lacking the votes needed to pass a fifth CR for fiscal 2018.

Democrats plan to oppose another CR absent a larger budget agreement, and hard-line conservatives in the 36-member House Freedom Caucus are also saying they’re likely to oppose it, which means GOP leaders will need to do more arm-twisting to pass a CR. Their conference is growing resistant to such deals given that past strategic moves have failed to produce results.

“The Freedom Caucus shares our view that CRs are bad,” House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. “They’re not only bad for the Defense Department, however, they’re bad for every agency of government because you cannot plan.”

House Democrats, who have not helped the GOP pass the last three CRs, will continue to oppose stopgap spending bills absent larger agreement on budget caps that equally fund defense and nondefense programs, as well as other priorities, the Maryland Democrat said.

“Anybody would be very, very optimistic or unrealistic — take your choice — if they said by next Tuesday we’re going to have a global agreement,” Hoyer said. “As a matter of fact, we appear to be moving in the opposite direction, which is sad. I have’t been involved in those negotiations, but what I’ve heard is it’s not as positive as it was three weeks ago, two weeks ago.”

With the Feb. 7 start date for the Democratic retreat, Hoyer said he hopes Republicans would move a funding measure before the Feb. 8 deadline.

“They’re in charge of the schedule; they were in charge of giving us the dates for the retreat, etc. etc. etc. We don’t control any of that,” he said. “We’re still planning on going on our retreat.”

Republicans canceled a half-legislative day that was scheduled for Jan. 31 to accommodate travel to their retreat in West Virginia, Hoyer noted.

“I would hope that they would take actions to make sure that the Democrats will not be disadvantaged in going to our conference,” he said. “We have speakers scheduled, costs incurred, etc. etc.”

But Democrats won’t go to their retreat if there is a shutdown threat, Hoyer said, noting, “If we need to stay here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to make sure government is open and operating, we’ll be here.”

“Only time will tell,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley said when asked about the government funding deadline affecting the retreat. “We’re moving ahead to what … so far has been planned and we’ll see what happens.”

Asked about making contingency plans for a delay or rescheduling, the New York Democrat said, “I don’t know if we can make those kind of plans. We’ll just have to play it by ear.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office, which is in charge of the House schedule, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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