House could vote Wednesday on year-long measure to fund government

The House will vote as soon as Wednesday on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through next September.

The resolution would increase spending by about $12 billion over fiscal 2010 levels, but would fall short of what President Obama called for in his initial budget request by about $85 billion, according to a draft obtained by The Hill.

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At the request of the White House, the draft resolution includes a two-year freeze on federal worker pay, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is opposed and the freeze could be limited to one year, according to a House aide.

In another controversial move, the measure would not grant the Defense Department much of the $18.2 billion in new discretionary funding that Obama had sought in his budget. But the CR does contain $4.3 billion for military personnel costs — $2.8 billion for pay and allowances and $1.5 billion for healthcare cost increases. The CR will not contain earmarks, which represented another $4.2 billion. The stopgap measure also allows for the 1.4 percent increase in pay for the military, the amount requested by the administration for 2011, according to a congressional source.

Democrats are pressing for the vote over the objection of Republicans, who favor a short-term continuing resolution that would run through the first few months of 2011.

This would allow the GOP to write the spending bills when it takes over the House majority next year.

House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee had not been consulted on the CR and, as of press time, had not officially been given a copy from the majority.
Senate Democrats plan to amend the House continuing resolution with an omnibus appropriations bill drafted by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Inouye is hoping he can get a handful of Republican appropriators, such as committee ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), to help overcome a GOP filibuster. The omnibus bill would provide more overall funding than the continuing resolution and would include earmarks, despite bans adopted by House and Senate Republicans.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), who is retiring, is pessimistic about an omnibus spending bill getting through the Senate, given GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) opposition, a House aide said.

Obey has concentrated on preparing the CR because it has the best chance of passing and would avert a short-term CR that would hand 2011 spending authority to the new Republican majority.

The draft resolution contains new spending to ensure that the financial regulatory overhaul can be implemented and would provide new funding for the first lady’s childhood obesity initiative. It also would provide funding to implement the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, which still must be ratified by the Senate.

A House aide explained that Hoyer wants the CR to deal with 2011 spending only, which would leave federal worker pay for 2012 for the next Congress. Touching on 2012 pay levels would go beyond the parameters of a usual CR, the aide said.

Some argue a two-year pay freeze is better than what Republicans are likely to seek next year, and that Democrats should accept it, the aide said.

The counterargument is that in a year’s time, Republicans may lose political capital, which would put them in a weaker position to demand spending cuts, the aide continued. For this reason it makes no sense to cut federal pay extensively, outside of a long-term deficit deal, the aide said.

This story was originally posted at 1:45 p.m. and updated at 7:48 p.m.