House GOP forges ahead with plan to include defense in spending bill

House GOP forges ahead with plan to include defense in spending bill
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are moving ahead with a strategy to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown after next Friday, daring Democrats to oppose full-year defense funding and an extension of children’s health insurance.

The House Appropriations Committee released legislation on Wednesday evening that would keep the government open through Jan. 19. It would also fund the Defense Department through September 2018 and avert automatic sequestration cuts that would otherwise take effect, as well as extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next year.

In addition to seeking to avoid a shutdown next week, Republican leaders plan to have a final vote on their tax overhaul.

GOP lawmakers said after a closed-door meeting on Wednesday that assistance for communities affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires could also be included in the funding package. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenOvernight Energy: Trump to nominate Wheeler as EPA chief | House votes to remove protections for gray wolves | Lawmakers aim to pass disaster funds for California fires Lawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE (R-N.J.) told lawmakers that a final aid measure isn't ready yet, though it is likely to be higher than the Trump administration's $44 billion request, according to Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossFlorida New Members 2019 Ross Spano wins race to replace Dennis Ross in Florida House seat GOP limits Dem gains in Florida House seats MORE (R-Fla.). 

The stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), does not currently include any disaster aid. But GOP leaders could be short of enough votes to pass the legislation if it does not eventually include assistance for hurricane and wildfire victims. 

“There are a lot of us from these disaster-affected states that are not going to support a CR absent supplement relief being taken care of before Christmas,” said Ross, whose state was ravaged by Hurricane Irma this year.

Funding the Pentagon through September 2018 but allowing other agencies to run on autopilot into next month is not likely to sit well with Senate Democrats, whose votes will be needed to clear a bill to avoid a shutdown.

Senate Democrats urged Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism On The Money: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal Koch groups: Congress shouldn't renew expired tax breaks MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal GOP senator accuses fellow Republican of spreading ‘fake news’ about criminal justice reform bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - New White House threat to Acosta's press pass | Trump defends criticism of McRaven | Hamilton biographer to headline WHCA dinner MORE (R-Ky.) to abandon the strategy of providing full-year funding for military programs but not other domestic programs in the stopgap bill.

“If presented with partisan legislation that leaves these key priorities behind, we will oppose it,” the Democrats wrote.

The authorization for CHIP expired at the end of September. The House passed a bill last month along party lines to keep the program funded, but it stalled amid Democratic opposition to its funding mechanism.

In the meantime, some states are already starting to run out of CHIP funds. 

The stopgap measure also does not include any provision related to the health care law's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers that are designed to help low-income people afford insurance.

House conservatives are opposed to including a bipartisan measure in the spending package from Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal Congress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (D-Wash.) that would bolster the ObamaCare insurance markets.

Some lawmakers have proposed that the House could pass the spending package and then pressure the Senate to swallow it by immediately leaving town for the holiday recess, but others expressed skepticism at the idea.

“Some people are suggesting we could jam the Senate. We could pass it on Wednesday and send it over to them and go home. But if you’re going to do that, you better get a return flight on Thursday,” said Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonOvernight Energy: Trump reportedly set to weaken methane rule | Exxon appeals climate case to Supreme Court | California commits to 100 percent clean energy | Tribes sue over Keystone XL pipeline Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog to probe Superfund panel | Zinke opens more wildlife refuges to hunting | House to vote on energy spending bill next week GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat MORE (R-Idaho), a senior appropriator.

Congress is also expected to consider the final version of the GOP’s tax overhaul next week in order to send it to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE’s desk for a signature before Christmas. 

The Senate could vote on a final tax bill as soon as Monday, with the House following possibly on Tuesday.

Republicans are eager to deliver on a major legislative accomplishment before the end of the year.

- This story was updated a 7:13 p.m.