Without a glitch — and with hardly any lawmakers present — the House on Thursday agreed to a measure funding the government through Tuesday, when members will consider yet another Senate-passed stopgap measure to keep the government running until mid-November.
Following the drama-free adoption of Thursday’s “bridge” measure by unanimous consent during a pro-forma session, House Republicans were predicting smooth sailing for Tuesday’s planned vote— when, at least technically, any obstacle could provoke another showdown.
“We don’t expect there to be any opposition because the funding levels have been previously agreed to,” said Erica Elliott, a spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Just hours earlier, though, McCarthy’s office had been hedging about Tuesday, saying leadership first needed to confer with its conference when lawmakers return to Washington next week.
In fact, the House Republican Conference has certainly shown in recent weeks that it can be unpredictable. But Tuesday's measure likely will have the backing of House Democrats, making its odds less tenuous, even if some Republicans oppose it.
The Democratic-led Senate’s passage this week of both the “bridge” version to keep government operations going through Tuesday and the second, longer continuing resolution to keep funding level until Nov. 18 occurred as government funding was set to dry up with Friday’s close of the fiscal year, and no FY12 budget in place.
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That Senate action was the product of a deal worked out between that chamber’s majority Democrats and Republicans, and includes $2.5 billion in disaster funding, and no disputed offsets.
Thursday's House action happened while the chamber was officially in recess. As a result, a short-term bill that could be approved in a pro-forma session without members present was necessary. Still, there was enough uncertainty surrounding this Congress’s ability to compromise, or even conduct its most basic business, that reporters kept watch from the House gallery just in case the typically routine parliamentary procedure took an unexpected turn.
Appropriations Committee member John Culberson, R-Texas, took to the House floor at 11 a.m. House Budget Ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., was also present. Culberson addressed the near-empty chamber, requesting unanimous consent to pass the Senate’s bridge CR. Then, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who presided from the speaker's chair, asked if anyone objected. For once, no one did.
Had just a single member done so, the carefully crafted compromise would have fallen apart.
This article appears in the September 29, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.