House GOP forges ahead with plan to include defense in spending bill
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 Frelinghuysen (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 Ross (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 Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (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 Simpson (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 Trump’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.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.