McConnell sets vote on 'clean' funding bill to avoid shutdown

McConnell sets vote on 'clean' funding bill to avoid shutdown
© Haiyun Jiang

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate healthcare bill appears headed for failure Talk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller MORE (R-Ky.) has scheduled a vote on what he says is a “clean” funding resolution to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Democrats say the bill isn’t good enough, creating a standoff with just days to go until government funding expires.

ADVERTISEMENT
McConnell took to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to schedule a vote on funding the government through Dec. 9, prompting an angry response from Democrats, who accused the GOP leader of jamming them.

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Bipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day MORE (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said the proposal “falls short” because it doesn’t include emergency funding to rebuild water infrastructure in Flint, Mich., where lead-tainted drinking water caused a national scandal earlier this year.

“One hundred thousand people in Flint, Mich., are still waiting for their water to be clean and safe,” she said on the Senate floor. “Nine thousand children have already had lead exposure that can cause permanent and irreversible damage. It tells Michigan to keep waiting in line.”

McConnell, in announcing the vote, said he was giving Democrats what they’ve been calling for this week: a continuing resolution without legislative riders to keep federal departments and agencies operating beyond the end of the month.

“There have been broad requests for a clean continuing resolution. So that’s what I’ve just offered. It’s the result of many, many hours of bipartisan work across the aisle,” McConnell said on the floor.

A GOP aide said the leader dropped a provision championed by Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP wrestles with soaring deductibles in healthcare bill Cruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis MORE (R-Texas) and backed by Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpScarborough, Brzezinski named rabbit after Trump Trump Jr. adds to legal team ahead of Senate meeting Conway: Trump doesn't think he's lying on voter fraud, wiretap claims MORE to block the Obama administration from ceding oversight of internet domain names to an international body.

McConnell said the measure includes emergency funding for flood relief in Louisiana, as well as West Virginia and Maryland, states with Democratic senators. 

He said it would also include emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, a controversial issue that had bogged down negotiators for weeks because of a dispute over Planned Parenthood gaining access to the funds.

The GOP leader said he thinks some Democrats may find the proposal attractive after reviewing it. He said a vote would not take place until Monday.

A Republican aide said Democrats should think long and hard about voting against a measure that would avert a government shutdown, especially now that their demands to eliminate controversial riders have been met.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (Nev.) panned McConnell’s offer before it was publicly announced and accused them of flirting with a government-wide shutdown.

“I can’t imagine why the Republicans would do this. They’ve shut it for 17 days before. I guess they’ve just getting warmed up to do it again,” Reid said, referring to the 2013 government closure over ObamaCare.

Democrats strongly objected to the characterization of the stopgap as “clean” because it included emergency funding for Louisiana, a red state, but not Michigan, a blue one.

As Democrats cried foul about the lack of Flint funding, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) argued that Senate Republicans have not abandoned their "quid-pro-quo" because the House GOP is planning to take a separate vote on a water resources bill that could include that funding.

"We know that Flint funding is going to happen,” Cassidy told The Hill minutes after the text was unveiled Thursday. 

He said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scheduled a vote on the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. While the Senate's version of the bill includes Flint funding, the House's bill does not currently include the funding.

"The lights were put on that runway. We know that that can happen now, so we don't have to play with peoples’ lives in Louisiana." 

Cassidy said McConnell confirmed the $500 million in emergency funding in a private meeting with him and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards late Thursday morning.

He said McConnell also assured him that more money would be on its way to Louisiana in the full government spending bill that will be considered in December.

"It’s a down payment, and we’re assured there will be more dollars available when we come back after the election," Cassidy said.  

Aside from the lack of Flint funding, Democrats are objecting to McConnell’s proposal to not end a policy rider included in last year’s omnibus spending package that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring companies to disclose their political spending. 

Democrats say allowing that language to remain in effect is tantamount to including a rider in the stopgap spending deal, but Republicans argue that it’s current law and would require a new rider to terminate.

They discussed the matter during a lunch meeting Thursday. 

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Trump gets briefing at Pentagon on ISIS, Afghanistan | Senate panel approves five defense picks | Senators want Syria study in defense bill Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Senators ask for Syria policy study in defense bill MORE (D-N.H.) said allowing the SEC to move forward with new campaign finance disclosure rules is “important.”

“It’s not good for our democracy, and people need to know who’s giving money to whom. They can better make a decision about whom to vote for,” she said. 

Few people in Washington think there will be a shutdown in an election year.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have appeared close to a deal, and GOP leaders aren’t dealing with a major conservative insurrection on their side. 

At the same time, Congress is running out of time. A stopgap needs to be approved by a week from Friday to prevent a shutdown. 

Democrats have seen a political advantage in shutdown fights. The 2013 shutdown led to poor poll numbers for Republicans, though those figures bounced back after ObamaCare’s difficult rollout.

Reid told reporters earlier Thursday that Republican demands to add policy riders, such as language blocking the Obama administration from ceding oversight of internet domain names to an international body, were preventing a deal.

McConnell countered a couple of hours later by filing a motion to act on a proposal he said had been stripped of controversial add-on policy language.

“Beginning the process on the clean CR today will ensure that there is adequate time to finish before the override vote and before the current government funding runs out next week,” he said.

Adam Jentleson, a senior aide to Reid, accused McConnell of jamming Democrats by filing a motion to begin action on the continuing resolution without giving Democrats advance notice. He said the maneuver was especially low because Democrats had agreed to set aside a procedural hurdle earlier in the week on good faith, without knowing what would ultimately come to the floor. 

McConnell used a procedural tactic known as "filling the tree" to block Democrats from offering amendments.

“McConnell repaid our good faith by trying to jam us with a bill we haven’t seen and blocking amendment votes,” Jentleson wrote in an email to reporters.   

— Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

- Updated at 2:53 p.m.