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 FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action 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 RossEx-GOP lawmaker joins family firm  Ex-GOP lawmaker joins Florida lobbying firm Incoming GOP lawmaker says he may have violated campaign finance law 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 RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk 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 AlexanderThe Higher Education Act must protect free speech Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 SimpsonHouse passes Paycheck Fairness Act Press: Democrats dare to think big Dem chairwoman seeks watchdog probe of Park Service’s shutdown operations 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 TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers 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.