This week: House looks for budget breakthrough

The House convenes Monday for a truncated workweek as Republicans try to find a way forward on passing a budget.

This week’s agenda is perhaps most notable for what’s left off of the schedule.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said last week that “more conversations among members will be required” before the budget advanced out of committee can make it to the floor.

Republicans have typically scheduled votes on their annual budgets within a week after committee passage since they took over the House majority in 2011. But divisions among House GOP lawmakers over spending levels means they don’t currently have the votes to pass a 2017 budget resolution.

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That’s not stopping appropriators from moving forward with the 12 individual spending bills. The House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and military construction projects will mark up its 2017 spending measure on Wednesday morning using the top-line spending level established in last year’s budget deal.

Yet it’s unclear how the budget blueprint or any of the individual appropriations bills can move forward while members of the House Freedom Caucus continue to call for rejecting last year’s top-line spending numbers.

The lack of consensus on the budget or any other major legislative deadlines has consequently resulted in a relatively light House floor schedule. Apart from a handful of noncontroversial bills to be considered under suspension of the rules, the only other item slated for a floor vote this week is a bill to require the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to adopt the same standards for reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions.

Moreover, this week will be shorter than usual as the House plans to adjourn Wednesday afternoon for its two-week Easter recess.

After this week, the House won’t be back in session until Tuesday, April 12. The Senate is not in session again until Monday, April 4.

FAA extension, female World War II pilots

The one deadline facing lawmakers this week before they depart for recess is to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs before they expire at the end of this month. 

The House passed a four-month extension of FAA programs last week. But it has to clear another version after the Senate amended it before adjourning for its holiday recess last Thursday.

An original extension passed by the House last week would extend the authorization of FAA programs through July 15 and the ability to collect aviation taxes through March 2017.

But the Senate amended it last week to only authorize the aviation taxes through July 15, meaning the House needs to clear the measure before it can be sent to President Obama.

Passage of the short-term extension on Monday gives House and Senate negotiators more time for a long-term measure to reauthorize the FAA.

The Senate Commerce Committee advanced legislation last week to renew FAA programs through September 2017, while the House version extends the programs through 2022.

The House version also encountered controversy for proposing a new non-governmental organization to manage air traffic control instead of the FAA. GOP leaders ultimately decided to scrap the measure when faced with an imminent deadline with no consensus.

On Tuesday, the House is expected to consider a bill to reinstate inurnment rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rep. Martha McSally’s (R-Ariz.) bill has 186 co-sponsors and is expected to pass easily.

The female pilots, known as Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, were a group of 1,074 women who flew non-combat missions during World War II. They weren’t granted full military status until 1977.

The Arlington cemetery is managed by the Army, which approved an “active duty” designation that included the WASPs for military honors and inurnments in 2002. But then-Army Secretary John McHugh changed the decision last year.

"These women were pioneers. These women were heroes and personal mentors to me,” McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly in combat, said at a press conference last week. 

- Kristina Wong contributed.