House forges ahead with Dec. 22 spending bill

House forges ahead with Dec. 22 spending bill
© Keren Carrion

House Republican leadership is forging ahead with a stopgap bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 22 and avoid a shutdown, despite a Monday night push from the conservative Freedom Caucus to move the date past Christmas. 

Lawmakers emerged from a House GOP conference meeting on Tuesday morning indicating that leaders are leaning toward a two-week continuing resolution (CR). Current funding for fiscal 2018 runs out Friday at midnight.

“Leadership is locked in on Dec. 22,” Freedom Caucus Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told The Hill. 

The Freedom Caucus had protested the strategy and held up a vote on a motion to go to conference with the Senate on tax legislation Monday night until they got assurances from leadership that they would consider a longer CR. The conservatives worry a deadline so close to Christmas would result in a massive, trillion-dollar omnibus package loaded with extraneous items they won't like.

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But leaders appear to be sticking with their original game plan.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said leadership did, however, commit to not relying on Democratic votes to pass the bill — a gesture that could help win over Freedom Caucus members.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTrump: Republicans' and my poll numbers would be higher if not for Mueller's 'witch hunt' Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’ Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE (R-Texas) said that his powerful panel planned to take up the Dec. 22 CR when it meets Tuesday afternoon.

When asked if that bill would receive a majority of House votes, Sessions replied, "That's a different issue."

After the meeting, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests MORE (R-Wis.) would not explicitly say whether he still backed the Dec. 22 CR leadership had originally proposed. But he suggested there would be no shutdown at week’s end.

“I feel that we’re going to have a majority; we’re going to have 218 for passing the CR,” Ryan told reporters.

“The point is we’re having the kind of family discussion that we need to have about how to proceed forward with a majority.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) warned that accommodating demands from the Freedom Caucus could make it harder to get a government funding deal.

"If they cooperate with Democrats they can accomplish something. To just let the Freedom Caucus dictate [is] a recipe for chaos," Schumer said from the Senate floor. 

House GOP leaders did a vote-count on the two-week CR last week. Lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus and conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) had expressed concerns with the idea.

But RSC Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (R-N.C.) said his team met with Ryan in the Speaker’s office before the conference meeting to let him know they could be open to a Dec. 22 CR.

He added that any other lawmakers who were previously “no” votes but have changed their position are responsible for letting the whip know that they have flipped.

“So we’ll see how that happens or lays out today, and then get the tally and see if that’s the will of the conference,” Walker told reporters.

The strategy of not making a deal with Democrats could help garner more Republican votes in the House. But it does not take into account the Senate, where leaders will need some Democratic votes to pass any spending legislation.

Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain MORE (R-Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus member, seemed to acknowledge that the House may end up sending a bill to the Senate that lacks the necessary Democratic support to pass.

“Leadership seems completely committed to putting the kind of legislation on the Senate’s doorstep to where they finally have to make some hard decisions about their rules, where the Democrats have to display some rational thinking,” Franks said.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas), the majority whip, said it's his "understanding" that Senate Republicans are still supporting a Dec. 22 deadline for the spending bill. He cast doubt on the strategy of pushing the deadline to Dec. 30.

"I'm not sure what that gets us, other than messing up the week between Christmas and New Years," he said.

Naomi Jagoda, Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos contributed to this report. This story was updated at 11:45 a.m.