House Republican leaders have ditched their initial plan for a stopgap spending bill amid GOP infighting over how best to avoid a government shutdown, which will take place Friday at midnight if Congress doesn’t intervene.
The original plan was to send a bill to the Senate that links a full year of funding for defense with a short-term patch that funds the rest of the government through Jan. 19. The continuing resolution (CR) was also supposed to include funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a massive $81 billion disaster aid package.
But some conservatives balked over the emergency aid because it is not offset by spending cuts elsewhere, while the boost for the military was likely dead on arrival in the Senate.
A House Rules Committee meeting, which was supposed to prepare the CR for a floor vote on Wednesday, was forced to recess Tuesday evening so that the panel could “continue to talk with members to determine the best path forward,” according to a committee aide.
A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) confirmed Wednesday that “member discussions continue,” though no final decisions have yet been made about the new spending strategy.
The emerging plan, according to a senior GOP aide, is to pass three separate bills Thursday: a clean CR that funds the entire government — including defense — until Jan. 19, a disaster package for regions damaged by hurricanes and wildfires, and an extension of an expiring surveillance program.
“It’s still in flux a bit, but it looks like we’ll do a more-or-less clean CR till the 19th of January,” Rep. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersGreene fined a third time for refusing to wear mask on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay MORE (R-Ky.), a former Appropriations chairman, told reporters Wednesday. “There will be a separate vote on the disaster supplemental.”
The continuing resolution could also include children’s health insurance and some spending “anomalies” for the Defense Department, he added. That could include $5.9 billion for missile defense, the troop surge and naval ship repair, according to a House GOP aide.
When pressed on why Republicans had to reverse course with their spending strategy, Rogers said some conservatives had “reservations” about the size of the disaster aid bill and the fact that it’s not offset.
But he also acknowledged that they need Democratic votes in the Senate — and Democrats oppose including full funding for the Pentagon in the CR without a boost for nondefense programs.
Sending over a clean CR could avoid having to “ping-pong” the stopgap bill back and forth between the two chambers.
“Maybe we ought to go back to passing something out of the House that will actually be agreed to by the Senate,” said Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentThe Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Influential Republicans threaten to form new party MORE (R-Pa.), a top appropriator. “Do this once, as opposed to three or four pings.”
There had been some concern that the Senate could still try to attach bipartisan ObamaCare fixes to the House-passed CR and send it back — an idea flatly rejected by conservatives in the lower chamber.
But GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) agreed on Wednesday to push off the debate into the new year, saying they have asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not to bring the bills up this week.
“Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs. For this reason, we have asked Senator McConnell not to offer this week our legislation," they said in a joint statement.
--Scott Wong and Alex Bolton contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:30 p.m.