January 10, 2014, 10:53 am
Congress to vote on three-day stopgap to prevent shutdown
By Erik Wasson
The House will vote next week on a three-day stopgap spending bill to prevent a new government shutdown and buy time to finish a $1 trillion omnibus.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House would vote early next week on the continuing resolution under a suspension of House rules, which would require it to be approved by a two-thirds vote.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would urge his members to back it.
“I will support it on suspension, I urge my colleagues to support it on suspension,” Hoyer said.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said negotiators are aiming to introduce a giant $1 trillion omnibus spending bill on Sunday or Monday.
But Congress will have to approve the stopgap measure first to avoid a shutdown, since Congress won’t have time to consider and pass the omnibus to meet a Jan. 15 deadline.
The stopgap measure would simply extend current spending, which is based on a $987 billion annual budget for discretionary spending. It would run through Saturday, Jan. 18.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama would support a short-term measure to keep the government open.
"If they need to buy themselves a few extra days in order to complete the work, that would be fine, as long as progress is being made," Carney said.
Appropriators are trying to buy time to finish an omnibus with a top-line spending level of $1.012 trillion, based on the two-year budget deal Congress approved last month.
Rogers is slated to talk to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to try to finalize the bill later on Friday but plans to work through the weekend in Washington.
Mikulski said she is confident the omnibus deal will be struck soon.
“We’re making solid progress and I’m confident that next week we’ll have a bipartisan agreement that finds common ground. This very short extension is needed to prevent any funding gaps as the agreement moves through the House and Senate next week,” she said in a statement.
Rogers said disputes over policy riders and funding levels were still unresolved as of Friday.
“It's a bit of both,” he said.
Despite the differences, Rogers predicted a strong bipartisan vote for the omnibus.
“I think it will be attractive to Republicans and Democrats on the House side and the Senate,” he said.
Appropriator Rep Tom Cole (R-Okla.), heading into a cigar smoking session Friday with Rogers and other panel members, said most disputes were pushed off into the 2015 spending cycle which is about to get underway.
“I think people understand that shutting down the government or a long fiscal fight is not in anybody's best interest,” he said.
Cantor said last votes next week are expected in the House on Thursday, an indication leaders expect to hurry the omnibus.
A Monday introduction, under House three-day layover rules, could allow a Wednesday vote if the whip count comes in strong. The Senate could take up the bill, start the cloture process and set up an initial Thursday vote. Thirty hours of post-cloture debate could bring a final vote on Saturday.
The movement toward finalizing the omnibus comes as the hardest parts of the 12-part package started falling into place at the end of the week.
On Thursday night, the labor and health portion was heading toward a compromise including on issues such as ObamaCare funding, according to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), whose subcommittee oversees health funding.
The omnibus would be the first fully detailed spending instructions for most federal agencies since Congress enacted another omnibus in late 2011.
The measure, spanning hundreds of pages, sets spending at $1.012 trillion, a $45 billion increase over the sequestration budget cap previously in place for the year but $46 billion below what President Obama wanted.
Last year, Congress passed a hybrid measure in March that contained some appropriations bills and left the rest of the government on autopilot. That measure was simply extended after the October government shutdown fight ended.
The March measure contained full, detailed appropriations bills covering the departments of Defense, Commerce, Justice, Veterans’ Affairs, Agriculture, and Homeland Security as well as for science agencies like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and military construction activities.
But the rest of the government did not have an update since the earlier omnibus, leaving no congressional stamp on how individual agencies, programs and projects within those parts of the federal government are handled.