House to consider another short-term spending bill

House to consider another short-term spending bill
© Greg Nash

The House will consider another stopgap spending bill next week in order to avoid a government shutdown, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal Omnibus not expected to include online sales tax bill Spending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say MORE (R-Calif.) announced Thursday. 

That would be the fourth temporary spending patch, or continuing resolution (CR), to come up for a vote since September. Current government funding runs out Jan. 19 at midnight.

“We’ve been in discussions to try to get a budget agreement. I hope that we can have that done this time. If we’re able to get that budget agreement, we’ll need some time for the appropriators to do their work,” McCarthy said while announcing the House floor schedule.

Republican leadership has not yet decided how long the funding in the short-term spending measure will last, according to Republican lawmakers leaving a GOP conference meeting Thursday morning.

But Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeGOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal Congress races to finish .2 trillion funding bill GOP open to 3-year DACA fix in spending bill MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, said GOP leadership told lawmakers who write the spending bills that they could decide the length of the next CR once a deal on budget caps is reached. 

He added that appropriators are leaning toward extending government funding until Feb. 16. 

Others predicted the CR would be longer, with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSpending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say Lawmakers demand explanation from United over pet deaths GOP pushes for 'phase two' of tax cuts MORE (R-N.C.) guessing it would stretch into the “first part of March.”

Congressional leaders have been scrambling for weeks to reach bipartisan agreement on boosting spending caps, which is needed to avoid automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are set to take effect later this month.

But a deal has so far remained elusive, as congressional leaders have been trying to strike a broader deal on immigration and other contentious issues. Democrats have also been insisting on equal increases for defense and nondefense spending programs.

Cole said that while leadership did not spend much time outlining a spending strategy during the GOP’s conference meeting on Thursday morning, he said leaders sounded “optimistic” about a budget agreement. 

Appropriators need top-line spending numbers so they can start writing a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill, which Cole said will take a few weeks. And even then, he noted, staff will have to work around the clock on the massive package.

A six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could also be added to the continuing resolution. Funding for the program runs out in March.

Some lawmakers have also been pushing to include a massive disaster aid package, which the House passed last month but has remained stalled in the Senate.

It's still unclear whether Democratic lawmakers, who are demanding a fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, will put up the votes for the CR without an immigration deal in place. 

Nine Democrats are needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.

“Well I haven’t seen the CR, but from my point of view, it needs to achieve two things, either as part of the bill or alongside it: one is DACA, and the other, of course, is new budget caps,” said Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceHouse Dems call for vote on lifting gun violence research limits House Dems urge Trump to fully fund Amtrak partners Senate nears two-year deal on spending MORE (D-N.C.), an Appropriations subcommittee chairman.

Defense hawks in the House may also balk at another continuing resolution, though most of them ended up supporting the last stopgap bill Congress passed before the holidays.

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump unveils new sanctions on Russia | Feds say Russian hackers targeted US energy grid | NSA nominee sails through second confirmation hearing House Armed Services leaders urge Trump to boost State's foreign propaganda fight US European Command head: 'Highly likely' Russia was involved in UK chemical attack MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, remained tight lipped Wednesday about whether he would back another short-term extension. 

“We’ll see what the circumstances are at the time, but every day of a CR does damage to the military,” he told The Hill.

- Cristina Marcos contributed