House GOP Coming Up Short in Approps Negotiations

So far, House Republicans aren't getting many of their desired policy riders, as Senate Republicans cut spending deals with Democrats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers at a news conference July 24.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Sept. 11, 2018, 8 p.m.

Congressional leaders have been crowing about a return to regular order in the appropriations process, but the emphasis on process has come at a cost to House Republicans—that is, almost no significant policy victories, so far.

The compromise bill funding Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the legislative branch drops virtually all high-profile riders—and any other controversial policies—that were written into the original House legislation. That does not augur well for the House GOP’s chances of achieving other sought-after goals, such as measures to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood and to build a wall at the southern border.

The reason is simple: House Republicans are on an island. Senate Republicans have joined with Senate and House Democrats to oppose the policy riders that House leaders routinely attach to their bills to win over conservative support, a House GOP leadership aide said.

“It’s definitely a different negotiating position than we had in the omnibus,” the aide said. “From a global perspective, we House Republicans probably have a weaker hand in getting what we want.”

That has not gone unnoticed by conservatives. Advocates are already panning the compromise bill. Nick Loris, a Heritage Foundation environmental expert, said the legislation sets a low bar for other 2019 funding bills.

“The general fact that this was relatively policy-rider-free doesn’t bode well for, not only this minibus, but if there [are] others as well,” Loris said. “There’s no fortitude to actually try to get some substantive policy reform that could have much more long-term impact in terms of reining in regulators.”

Loris said the riders could provide a counterweight to what he called irresponsible increases to spending for fiscal 2019, a result of a bipartisan budget deal brokered earlier this year. The minibus bumps up spending by nearly $1.5 billion for the Energy and Water Development section.

House Republicans, however, contend this outcome was not for a lack of trying.

A repeal of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, the legally embattled regulation known as Waters of the United States, fell to the wayside once again. House Republicans also failed to secure money to jump-start the arbitration process for the Yucca Mountain repository. That process stalled years ago, even though Yucca remains the country’s only legal storage facility for nuclear waste.

And a rider that would have nixed an Oregon court decision to divert water from hydroelectric dams to try to help boost salmon populations in the region also missed the cut.

The absence of that language is especially significant for House Republicans. Just hours before lawmakers announced the deal, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers blasted the court decision, which overruled a 2014 federal conservation plan, at a Natural Resources Committee field hearing in her home state of Washington.

“Why is this judge ignoring science? Why is this judge ignoring years of work on a biological opinion to satisfy the court demands?” said Rodgers, who is in a tough reelection battle. “The fact of the matter is that dams and fish coexist.”

Judge Michael Simon, who sits on the Oregon District Court, mandated in 2016 that hydroelectric dam operators increase spill—the amount of water that flows over the dam and bypasses turbines—in order to better safeguard salmon spawning. A nonbinding “explanatory statement” linked to the minibus, meanwhile, criticized the court decision, but that amounted to little more than a fig leaf.

“Many conferees have grave concerns about judicial interference in the operation of the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers,” the statement says. “There was no specific scientific backing cited for this decision. Spilling at this increased level can threaten the reliability of the federal power and transmission systems and result in impacts to transportation and barging systems, flood-control capabilities, and irrigation systems.”

Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the Democratic leadership who also represents Washington, applauded the absence of a policy rider on the issue. “Nothing in this report, and nothing in the bill itself, would insert Congress or partisan politics into the process or would interfere with the court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in and accounts for all uses of our river system,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, House and Senate appropriators convene Thursday for conference meetings on the next two minibuses in the pipeline, one of which is led by the perennially controversial Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department account. The Senate version of that legislation includes more environmental riders, which provide a potential path for bicameral compromise.

In that bill, Senate lawmakers agreed to permanently declare biomass carbon-neutral. The legislation also includes a rider to permanently prevent regulation of livestock emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Another bill covering health care, however, could prove more controversial. House Republicans are seeking language allowing doctors to sue if they are forced to perform abortions, a ban on research using fetal tissue, and a measure allowing faith-based adoption agencies to decline to place children with gay couples.

That bill is paired with another funding bill for the Defense Department, so leaders are hoping that the sting from the lack of policy wins will be offset by an increase in military spending.

Yet the calendar is getting tight, and the amount of time it took to finish the first package—widely regarded as the easiest of the spending bills—may portend more delays. The House has only one full legislative week left after this one before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Already, House leaders are beginning to talk about a continuing resolution to carry the bill funding the Homeland Security Department into the lame-duck session, putting off any decision about funding a border wall for another day.

What We're Following See More »
SHE IS AMBASSADOR TO CANADA AND A GOP DONOR
Kelly Craft Nominated for UN Post
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login