House Republicans Introduce New Stopgap Funding Measure

February 5, 2018 08:49 PM
<p>(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans on Monday night introduced legislation that would extend most government funding at current levels until March 23.</p><p>The stopgap measure would include full-year

(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans on Monday night introduced legislation that would extend most government funding at current levels until March 23.

The stopgap measure would include full-year funding for the Defense Department, setting up a confrontation with the Senate where the plan likely won’t have the votes to pass.

Still, there was little appetite among lawmakers for another government shutdown, and some senators said the defense spending provision would be stripped out when it reaches their chamber.

The House legislation would lift budget caps for defense spending to provide $659 billion for the Pentagon for the entire fiscal year, according to a summary provided to lawmakers.

It also would authorize the Energy Department to make sales from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extend funding for Community Health Care Centers for two years and make modifications to Medicare, such as repealing a payment cap for therapy services.

The House plan doesn’t include an increase in the federal debt limit in the stopgap legislation. A measure to increase or suspend the debt ceiling could be added to other legislation before the end of the month.

Republican Representative Bill Huizenga of Michigan said including the defense funding was the only way to get support from 218 Republicans in the House to pass it without Democratic support.

Senate Hurdle

But several Republicans said they weren’t optimistic the extra defense spending could get through the Senate. That means the House would likely have to vote again on Wednesday or Thursday with the Pentagon money stripped out. If the House rejects that, the government would edge closer to a shutdown after midnight Thursday.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Huizenga said.

Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, introduced the legislation and said in a statement on Monday night that "continued funding for federal operations is critical to our nation’s stability, our economy, and for the well-being of the American people."

Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who announced last week that he would not seek re-election, added that "once this agreement is made, my committee will rapidly go to work with the Senate to complete the final legislation.”

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said in a statement also released on Monday night that "the reason Congress is facing a fifth stopgap budget bill is because the Republican majority is incompetent."

Senate Democrats, whose votes would be needed on the spending measure in the Senate, have insisted that any increase in Pentagon spending must be matched by higher budget limits for other domestic programs. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been negotiating on a broader budget bill that would raise budget caps set as part of a 2011 law.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said he didn’t think a stopgap with the extra defense spending could pass in the Senate, where Republicans have only 51 votes. Senate rules require 60 votes to advance legislation.

“I’d prefer the defense bill be passed in conjunction with other bills,” Shelby said.

House Republicans have expressed frustration with being unable to get their legislation through the Senate.

“It is unfortunate our need for nine votes in the Senate is completely upending most of our major Republican policy initiatives,” Virginia Republican Representative Dave Brat said.

Several issues are pushed down the road with the stopgap, including the debt ceiling. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last week that the Treasury Department will exhaust accounting moves to prevent default in the first half of March.

Separately, the Treasury said that it expects to be able to fund the government through the end of February, and it urged Congress to “act promptly” to increase the limit.


©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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