House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money

House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money
© Greg Nash

House Republicans passed a spending package on Tuesday night that pairs a full year of defense funding with a temporary patch for the rest of the government, even as Senate leaders pursue a different plan to avoid a shutdown when funding runs dry on Thursday.

The defense-first strategy from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanStudents arrested protesting gun violence outside Paul Ryan’s office Parkland father calls out Trump, McConnell, Ryan after Santa Fe shooting GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan MORE (R-Wis.) was designed to win over support from conservative hard-liners and defense hawks in the House GOP conference who were threatening to oppose the stopgap bill — the fifth temporary funding patch since September.

The continuing resolution (CR), which passed the House 245-182, would fund the Defense Department for the rest of fiscal 2018 and keep the rest of the government’s lights on until March 23. It also includes two years of funding for community health centers and extends several expiring health care programs.

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But the defense-CR package is unlikely to fly in the Senate, meaning senators will need to rewrite the stopgap measure and “ping-pong” it back to the House.

Further squeezing the debate is that House Democrats are scheduled to leave Wednesday morning for a three-day annual retreat in Cambridge, Md., though buses are supposed to be on standby in case lawmakers need to return to Washington to vote on whatever measure the Senate sends back to the House.

In the Senate, the emerging strategy to avoid a shutdown is to add a bipartisan budget caps deal to the CR and strip out the defense funding. Senate leaders are close to reaching a deal that would lift stiff budget caps for both defense and nondefense spending programs in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

Adding the budget caps deal, along with other possible items like disaster aid, could make the spending package more attractive. It would also break the gridlock on Capitol Hill and allow lawmakers to start writing an actual omnibus spending bill that funds the government for the rest of the year.

But House conservatives have balked at the idea of a massive spending hike that adds billions of dollars to the deficit, and have insisted that GOP leaders hold the line when it comes to boosting nondefense spending.

Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus said they need to see details before they take a position.

“It depends on what the budget caps deal is. Some of the numbers that are being talked about are obviously much higher than what conservatives would support,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress Farm bill revolt could fuel Dreamer push Overnight Finance: House rejects farm bill in conservative revolt | NAFTA deal remains elusive as talks drag on | Dodd-Frank rollback set for House vote MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill on Tuesday afternoon.

And some House Democrats may be reluctant to give up their leverage in the immigration fight by agreeing to a budget caps deal without a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

But a large number of them are likely to support any deal that their Democratic leaders sign off on, especially if it includes increases for domestic programs, funding for community health centers and other Democratic priorities.

“We’ll have to see it, but we’re looking for a CR that provides for a resolution of our budget issues. And that means caps that get us off of the sequestration level,” said Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceSafety advocates urge lawmakers to steer clear of larger trucks in appropriations bill Coast Guard won’t ban transgender members without direct policy barring them House Dems call for vote on lifting gun violence research limits MORE (D-N.C.), an appropriator.