House to consider another short-term spending bill

House to consider another short-term spending bill
© Greg Nash

The House will consider another stopgap spending bill next week in order to avoid a government shutdown, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) announced Thursday. 

That would be the fourth temporary spending patch, or continuing resolution (CR), to come up for a vote since September. Current government funding runs out Jan. 19 at midnight.

“We’ve been in discussions to try to get a budget agreement. I hope that we can have that done this time. If we’re able to get that budget agreement, we’ll need some time for the appropriators to do their work,” McCarthy said while announcing the House floor schedule.

Republican leadership has not yet decided how long the funding in the short-term spending measure will last, according to Republican lawmakers leaving a GOP conference meeting Thursday morning.

But Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeOvernight Health Care: House GOP blocks Trump-backed drug pricing provision | Maryland sues to protect ObamaCare | Insurers offer help to hurricane-impacted areas House GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill Congress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, said GOP leadership told lawmakers who write the spending bills that they could decide the length of the next CR once a deal on budget caps is reached. 

He added that appropriators are leaning toward extending government funding until Feb. 16. 

Others predicted the CR would be longer, with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGraham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests Graham: Obama, not Trump, politicized DOJ and FBI MORE (R-N.C.) guessing it would stretch into the “first part of March.”

Congressional leaders have been scrambling for weeks to reach bipartisan agreement on boosting spending caps, which is needed to avoid automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are set to take effect later this month.

But a deal has so far remained elusive, as congressional leaders have been trying to strike a broader deal on immigration and other contentious issues. Democrats have also been insisting on equal increases for defense and nondefense spending programs.

Cole said that while leadership did not spend much time outlining a spending strategy during the GOP’s conference meeting on Thursday morning, he said leaders sounded “optimistic” about a budget agreement. 

Appropriators need top-line spending numbers so they can start writing a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill, which Cole said will take a few weeks. And even then, he noted, staff will have to work around the clock on the massive package.

A six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could also be added to the continuing resolution. Funding for the program runs out in March.

Some lawmakers have also been pushing to include a massive disaster aid package, which the House passed last month but has remained stalled in the Senate.

It's still unclear whether Democratic lawmakers, who are demanding a fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, will put up the votes for the CR without an immigration deal in place. 

Nine Democrats are needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.

“Well I haven’t seen the CR, but from my point of view, it needs to achieve two things, either as part of the bill or alongside it: one is DACA, and the other, of course, is new budget caps,” said Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceTo save asylum seekers we must save our immigration courts House panel advances homeland security bill with billion in border wall funding House panel pushes back against Trump asylum rule on domestic, gang violence MORE (D-N.C.), an Appropriations subcommittee chairman.

Defense hawks in the House may also balk at another continuing resolution, though most of them ended up supporting the last stopgap bill Congress passed before the holidays.

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, remained tight lipped Wednesday about whether he would back another short-term extension. 

“We’ll see what the circumstances are at the time, but every day of a CR does damage to the military,” he told The Hill.

- Cristina Marcos contributed