Republicans Prep Short-Term Funding to Keep Government Open Through Election Day

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking to have believed otherwise, but it looks like the fiscal 2015 appropriations process is already dead.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 10: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers questions during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Boehner spoke on immigration issues facing the U.S. and other matters.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
July 21, 2014, 1:34 p.m.

Abandon­ing all pre­tense of the House and Sen­ate agree­ing on ap­pro­pri­ations bills on time, House GOP lead­ers are tent­at­ively plan­ning to vote next week on a res­ol­u­tion keep­ing the gov­ern­ment tem­por­ar­ily fun­ded at cur­rent levels bey­ond the Oct. 1 start of the new fisc­al year — and prob­ably past Elec­tion Day.

A sep­ar­ate vote is also planned be­fore mem­bers ad­journ late next week for an Au­gust-long re­cess on a Re­pub­lic­an plan to deal with the surge of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, a re­sponse to Pres­id­ent Obama’s $3.7 bil­lion sup­ple­ment­al re­quest.

But the news Monday from seni­or Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic aides of the GOP lead­ers’ de­cision to move ahead on a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion for gov­ern­ment spend­ing for fisc­al 2015 had not been an­ti­cip­ated — at least not this early.

It is “dis­ap­point­ing that the House lead­er­ship would give up so quick when there is still a lot of time left to get this done,” said a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide, who noted Monday that both cham­bers have ad­di­tion­al le­gis­lat­ive days sched­uled in Septem­ber in which to find some com­prom­ises.

It is not pre­cisely clear what the aim of such an ac­tion by the House next week would be.

However, the move ap­pears to rep­res­ent at least an ac­know­ledg­ment by House Re­pub­lic­ans that any ex­pect­a­tions earli­er this year for a two-cham­ber agree­ment on all 12 spend­ing bills for fisc­al 2015 have crumbled.

Those hopes had been raised by the two-year budget deal agreed to by GOP Rep. Paul Ry­an and Demo­crat­ic Sen. Patty Mur­ray last year, be­cause spend­ing levels — a usu­al source of much of the House and Sen­ate fisc­al fric­tion — were pre­set for 2015. The two-year ac­cord had set the budget at $1.014 tril­lion for fisc­al 2015, up from $1.012 tril­lion this year. (Those fig­ures do not in­clude man­dated spend­ing on en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams.)

Even with that agree­ment, the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess has sputtered.

So far in the House, sev­en of the 12 an­nu­al spend­ing bills due by Oct. 1 have been com­pleted. But five re­main un­fin­ished. Mean­while, the Sen­ate con­tin­ues to be locked in par­tis­an dis­agree­ments about the amend­ment pro­cess on the floor, and it has yet to pass any of the spend­ing bills.

The tim­ing means the Demo­crat­ic-led Sen­ate would, at best, be handed the House bill right as the Au­gust break be­gins. But wheth­er the House’s ac­tion ac­tu­ally rep­res­ents a strong-armed, “take-it-or-leave-it” man­euver, giv­ing the Sen­ate a choice of either go­ing along or risk a gov­ern­ment shut­down on Oct. 1, is un­clear.

There has re­mained some hope among ap­pro­pri­at­ors that law­makers would still be able to agree on at least a hand­ful of the 12 an­nu­al spend­ing bills — and that they could pos­sibly pass an om­ni­bus pack­age of those meas­ures. There is a chance House Re­pub­lic­ans are cov­er­ing their bases, in case that does not hap­pen.

On Monday, Mi­chael Steel, a spokes­man for House Speak­er John Boehner, com­men­ted only that “the House has passed sev­en ap­pro­pri­ations bills in reg­u­lar or­der. Thus far, the Demo­crat-con­trolled Sen­ate has passed none. We hope Wash­ing­ton Demo­crats will choose to aban­don grid­lock and work with us to fund the Amer­ic­an peoples’ pri­or­it­ies.”

A spokes­man for Ma­jor­ity Lead­er-elect Kev­in Mc­Carthy sim­il­arly poin­ted out that the Sen­ate has not passed a singled ap­pro­pri­ations bill. But Mike Long also in­sisted that what the House Re­pub­lic­ans will do has not been de­cided. “At this time, no de­cision has been made to dis­con­tin­ue the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess, much less con­sid­er­a­tion of a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion,” he said.

Oth­er aides, however, con­firmed the ac­tion has been tent­at­ively sched­uled.

De­tails on the ex­act lan­guage of the House Re­pub­lic­ans’ res­ol­u­tion to keep gov­ern­ment op­er­at­ing at cur­rent levels past Oct. 1 were not avail­able.

The res­ol­u­tion is ex­pec­ted to ex­tend all of the ex­ist­ing spend­ing covered by the 12 an­nu­al bills through some date after the lame-duck ses­sion. That refers to the peri­od after the Nov. 4 con­gres­sion­al elec­tions where law­makers will re­turn to Wash­ing­ton to wrap up work be­fore the end of the two-year ses­sion.

Un­der usu­al House trans­par­ency rules, de­tails of the bill will have to be pos­ted by Tues­day, if not earli­er, for the House to take ac­tion on it by next Thursday, Ju­ly 31, after which it is sched­uled to be­gin the Au­gust break.

Also, House GOP lead­ers also have tent­at­ively set a vote for next week on a Re­pub­lic­an plan to ad­dress the bor­der crisis, with Re­pub­lic­ans say­ing their ver­sion would likely con­tain less than half of the $3.7 bil­lion Obama has asked for. There also is ex­pec­ted to be a num­ber of im­mig­ra­tion-policy changes at­tached.

And both that pack­age — and the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion — will have to share some of the spot­light as law­makers pre­pare to vote next week on a res­ol­u­tion au­thor­iz­ing Boehner to sue Obama over his use of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

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