One-week stopgap bill clears as appropriators work to close out omnibus
House Appropriations chair is confident sprawling spending bill can pass by Christmas, but acknowledges ‘crazy things’ can happen
The Senate on Thursday cleared a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 23, as Appropriations Committee leaders distributed final spending allocations to their dozen subcommittees to ready a sprawling omnibus package they plan to unveil Monday afternoon.
The stopgap extension cleared on a 71-19 vote, likely a benchmark for potential support on the omnibus next week. That measure will start in the Senate, where the plan is to attach it to a shell vehicle the House sent over on Wednesday.
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro expressed confidence that her chamber will be able to clear the omnibus once it comes back to her side of the Capitol.
"We're going to get an omnibus next week," DeLauro, D-Conn., said Thursday. "I'm resolute. I can't account for crazy things that come up, but that's my goal."
While the regular or "base" subcommittee allocations appeared settled, there was at least one outstanding issue on the emergency funding title appropriators are planning to add.
President Joe Biden has already asked for tens of billions of dollars to respond to the war in Ukraine and natural disasters. But lawmakers are also trying to respond to a separate administration request for a $3.5 billion increase over last year to help the Department of Homeland Security handle management of the southern border.
Given Democrats had to trim their regular nondefense allocations, appropriators are discussing adding border funding to the supplemental package that's under consideration. Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Chair Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., said there's still no bipartisan agreement on that front yet, however.
"There's still a whole bunch of Republicans that are rooting for chaos on the border," Murphy said. "We just need to … make sure we have enough money to let the border guards do their job."
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the Homeland Security Appropriations ranking member, said Republicans are concerned about providing emergency funding for border management without additional “deterrence” measures to “stem the flow” of migrants.
“My feeling is there has to be much a better effort through appropriations for deterrence,” she said. “Let's make some moves there and then see where we are.”
Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., wouldn't comment on the border dispute, except to say: "Well, we haven't crystallized everything yet."
How to treat veterans health care funds within appropriators' toplines had been a sticking point until panel leaders agreed on a spending framework Tuesday night.
Both parties have been pushing hefty increases for VA health care, but Republicans have wanted to keep a lid on other nondefense accounts to preserve room. Senate Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Thursday that negotiators had agreed to make a portion of the funding "mandatory" so it wouldn't count against appropriators' discretionary allocations.
Appropriators were still awaiting decisions from leadership about what goes into the "ash and trash" title of the omnibus — appropriations-speak for unrelated legislation from authorizing committees that often gets tacked on to a moving year-end vehicle.
A group of conservative GOP senators, including Mike Lee of Utah, Rick Scott of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin secured two amendment votes on the CR in exchange for speeding up passage.
Lee’s amendment to change the stopgap measure’s expiration date to March 10 was rejected, 35-56.
Republicans believe they'll be better positioned to secure policy wins in the spending package since they'll control the House.
Lee explained in a lengthy Twitter thread that it was also about allowing lawmakers to consider “the yet-to-be-seen, 3,000-page omnibus on its own merits, and without the threat of a Christmas shutdown clouding their judgment.” His frustration signals he may also slow down consideration of the omnibus next week.
“If those advocating for the omnibus can’t make their case for it without threatening a shutdown on Christmas Eve, one has to wonder what they’re hiding,” Lee said. “Members of Congress shouldn’t pass any bill absent an adequate opportunity to know what they’re enacting, who benefits from it, and who might be harmed—especially a bill that is 3,000 pages long, contains 7,500 earmarks, and spends nearly $1.7 TRILLION.”
Scott’s amendment to eliminate tens of billions of dollars in mandatory IRS funding Democrats enacted in their climate, tax and health law was rejected on a 45-47 vote.
His amendment also contained a provision to restore the tax reporting threshold for online, third-party payment platforms like Venmo, Uber and eBay to $20,000 in sales from at least 200 transactions. Democrats’ pandemic relief law cut the Form 1099-K threshold to $600 in total payments, starting in 2022.
The online sales reporting change likely would have drawn bipartisan support if it had not been paired with the IRS funding cut since some Democrats have called for increasing the threshold before the filing season starts in January.
Asked if he and other advocates of reversing to the $20,000 threshold could get it added to the omnibus, Scott said, “I’m not sure.”
No details of the omnibus framework deal have been disclosed, but it is expected to provide close to $1.7 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2023, including about $858 billion for defense and a still-undetermined amount of emergency aid for Ukraine and natural disasters.
The omnibus bill is set to begin in the Senate, where bipartisan support is critical because the Democratic majority lacks the 60 votes needed to advance legislation on their own. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set a Dec. 22 deadline for Senate action. The House could then follow suit by Dec. 23, barring a delay.
With the Senate moving first on the omnibus, the House won't return for votes until next Wednesday evening, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., announced on the floor. "The House is also expected to meet on Thursday Dec. 22 and will stay in session until the omnibus is completed,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the government funding deadline now bumping up against Christmas — assuming the Senate clears the House-passed continuing resolution through Dec. 23 — is "not a tactic" for pressuring lawmakers to accept a bipartisan deal they may not like.
"We'd like to have done it much sooner," she told reporters at her weekly press conference.
Progressive lawmakers are signaling they aren't likely to pose a problem for House passage of the omnibus, even though many were seeking a smaller level of defense funding than what the compromise provides.
"We never liked this, but the reality is we also know we have to get this done because … a one-year CR would be terrible for people in this country,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., referring to the fallback option of a yearlong stopgap measure that would constrain both defense and nondefense spending.