Here Are the Four Things House GOP Leadership Wants to Get Done Before Recess

But will the rest of the House go along?

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
July 23, 2014, 5:32 p.m.

House GOP lead­ers are press­ing to com­plete a “Big Four” list of items be­fore the House’s sched­uled Au­gust-long ad­journ­ment next Thursday.

But loom­ing big is this ques­tion: Will their own rank-and-file mem­bers co­oper­ate?

Top­ping this cramped To Do list, seni­or aides said on Wed­nes­day, is a short-term spend­ing bill to keep gov­ern­ment fun­ded and op­er­at­ing at cur­rent levels bey­ond the Oct. 1 start of the new fisc­al year — when cur­rent fund­ing ex­pires — and likely well bey­ond Elec­tion Day.

First re­por­ted Monday by Na­tion­al Journ­al, the plan­ning for ac­tion next week on such a stop­gap con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion is seen by GOP lead­ers as a way to head off any talk over the break of a po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down — at least any talk that House Re­pub­lic­ans should be blamed if that hap­pens.

To date, the House has passed sev­en of the 12 an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations bills, while the Demo­crat­ic-led Sen­ate has passed none. And there is little ex­pect­a­tion that the two cham­bers will com­plete pas­sage of the bills on time.

Also, House lead­ers are hop­ing to hold a vote next week on the House GOP’s fund­ing and policy re­sponse to Pres­id­ent Obama’s sup­ple­ment­al re­quest for $3.7 bil­lion to deal with the in­flux of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors to the bor­der, but ac­know­ledge hurdles in its pas­sage.

There is “cau­tious op­tim­ism” that ne­go­ti­ations to re­con­cile House- and Sen­ate-passed ver­sions of a bill to re­form the em­battled Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment can be com­pleted, and a vote on the deal can be held next week. But the con­fid­ence is not as high as the hope for this third item, with the costs of those re­forms and oth­er de­tails still be­ing hashed out by the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee.

A fourth item pre­vi­ously an­ti­cip­ated to be on the floor next week — but since pushed back — was ac­tion on a House ver­sion to reau­thor­ize the fed­er­al Ter­ror­ism Risk In­sur­ance Act.

But more cer­tain to hap­pen — round­ing out what the seni­or aides are call­ing the “Big Four” of items to be ad­dressed be­fore the break — is a House vote to form­ally au­thor­ize Speak­er John Boehner to launch a law­suit chal­len­ging Obama’s use of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

Des­pite these plans, aides said there re­mained on Wed­nes­day some un­cer­tainty for Boehner and oth­er House lead­ers re­gard­ing votes on a tem­por­ary gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill and a GOP bor­der plan, and even a VA re­form pack­age.

With there still be­ing 10 sched­uled le­gis­lat­ive days in Septem­ber be­fore the Oct. 1 start of the new fisc­al year, there is con­cern, but no cer­tainty, that most House Demo­crats would not go along with passing a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion.

But there is also worry that few or no Demo­crat­ic votes — com­bined with the chance that some House con­ser­vat­ives won’t go along with a con­tinu­ation of ex­ist­ing levels be­cause they want more spend­ing cuts — could leave the CR without enough back­ing to pass.

This po­ten­ti­al­ity is be­ing con­tem­plated so quietly that spokes­men for Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er-elect Kev­in Mc­Carthy were in­sist­ing Wed­nes­day that there is no CR, and that none is be­ing planned.

But oth­er seni­or GOP aides said that is not the case — and that lead­ers still in­tend to put one on the floor for a vote next week.

“We’d be crazy not to do so, or all our mem­bers are go­ing to hear over the Au­gust break is talk of a pos­sib­il­ity of a gov­ern­ment shut­down,” said one seni­or aide.

Sim­il­arly, Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are look­ing cau­tiously to pro­ceed­ing with floor ac­tion on the House’s bor­der plan be­fore mem­bers be­gin the re­cess.

They know that Demo­crat­ic votes will likely be needed to pass their pack­age, be­cause some of their own Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers op­pose even the $1.5 bil­lion cost of their plan — even though that is less than half of the spend­ing Obama pro­posed.

But they also know that many Demo­crats are op­posed to at least one ma­jor pro­posed policy change in the emer­ging GOP pack­age — its call to speed up de­port­a­tions from the pro­cess cur­rently in place un­der a 2008 law in­ten­ded to pro­tect chil­dren flee­ing vi­ol­ence.

Boehner un­der­scored all of this in a let­ter to Obama on Wed­nes­day, telling the pres­id­ent: “Frankly, it is dif­fi­cult to see how we can make pro­gress on this is­sue without strong, pub­lic sup­port from the White House for much-needed re­forms, in­clud­ing changes to the 2008 law.”

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