Congress Gives Itself Another Week to Craft Spending Bill

Hours before the federal government’s spending authority expired Friday at midnight, the Senate advanced a one-week continuing resolution by voice vote, putting spending on autopilot and avoiding a looming government shutdown.

The Senate action followed a 382-30 House vote to pass the one-week extension. Without the measure, the government would have run out of money as Friday turned to Saturday.

The makeshift spending agreement allows lawmakers in the House and Senate to negotiate until next Friday to come to a deal and pass a huge, omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30.  

“It really bothers me that we’re so late in getting this thing done,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said of the 11th-hour spending resolution in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told The Daily Signal that the omnibus bill, expected to be introduced Monday, is progressing well.

“My understanding is that the omnibus bill is nearly complete, that … we may actually be able to combine all the separate appropriations bills into that omnibus bill, and that’s good news,” Harris said in an interview.

Votes on the omnibus spending bill are expected on Thursday.

Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall is not included. Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate have said they prefer to put off a fight with Democrats over beginning to pay for the wall until the fall, rather than as part of funding the government for the rest of the current fiscal year.

“Full border wall funding can’t be there at this point,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a supporter of the wall, said in a recent interview with The Daily Signal. “It’s not designed, prototypes have not been created.”

Biggs said he is preparing an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood for inclusion in the omnibus spending bill. He said it mirrors Vice President Mike Pence’s amendment to defund Planned Parenthood that the House passed in 2011, when Pence was a Republican congressman from Indiana.

National defense must be a priority in the omnibus bill, Harris said.

“I look forward to a very lively discussion for the next year’s appropriations bills on the president’s plan to begin to prioritize funding within the nonmandatory side of the ledger and to re-emphasize defense of the nation and homeland security as a top priority,” Harris said.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted controversy for the omnibus bill currently being discussed.  

“There are probably still 70 poison pills in the bill that we can’t live with,” Pelosi said Wednesday on CNN.

“One party now controls the White House and both chambers of Congress,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking  member of the Appropriations Committee, said in a prepared statement about the one-week extension. “It is incumbent upon them to ensure that the government of the American people stays open and is fully funded.”   

Biggs, however, sounded cautiously optimistic about what those crafting the omnibus will produce.

“I hope they produce something in writing soon because I don’t know how they expect people to vote on stuff they don’t have time to read,” the Arizona Republican said.  

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