Lawmakers a Step Closer to Averting Dec. 11 Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON — Top appropriators reached bipartisan agreement Tuesday on a framework for an omnibus spending package that would avoid a partial government shutdown next month.
The compromise forged between the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees sets spending allocations for the dozen bills that fund federal agencies for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. A deal on those allocations will allow lawmakers to draft omnibus legislation that is needed by Dec. 11, when current stopgap funding is set to run dry.
The agreement, which was confirmed by aides familiar with the talks, resolves a partisan impasse over how to divvy up about $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2021 that is allowed under a two-year budget deal. Details of the actual compromise spending allocations, which are typically kept confidential until legislation is released, weren’t immediately available.
The House version of fiscal 2021 spending bills, released in July, and the Senate appropriations measures, released this month, have different allocations. Democrats opted to put more funding toward the departments of Veterans Affairs, Interior, EPA, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, while Republicans proposed more funding for Defense, Homeland Security, Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Those differences weren’t all that great in dollar terms. And after accounting for spending that is already exempt from budget caps, such as overseas military operations, most agencies are in line for at least small increases over the prior fiscal year’s levels.
But the House bills also included about $233 billion in emergency spending for the COVID-19 pandemic that is not part of the Senate bills. Senate Republicans had balked at combining pandemic relief with regular annual appropriations. It wasn’t immediately clear whether there was any accommodation for coronavirus relief funding on top of the regular compromise subcommittee allocations.
Hopes for completing the deal by last week were dashed after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif., continued to object to exempting $12.5 billion in veterans health care money from the budget caps. That money pays for a program giving veterans access to private medical care outside the VA system when wait times are too long or veterans live too far away from VA facilities.
McCarthy has said exempting the program violates the two-year budget deal, while House Democrats and Senate Republicans favored the exemption to free up more money for other nondefense programs. Overall nondefense accounts would see increases greater than 2% on average for the budget year that began Oct. 1, as opposed to a less than 0.5% boost without the veterans health care carve-out.
Details of how the veterans cap exemption would be treated in the final bargaining weren’t immediately clear, though sources have said they expect an emergency classification to remain given both House Democrats and Senate Republicans previously agreed.
The White House in the past registered objections to the emergency adjustment, but sources familiar with the talks said the veterans exemption didn’t rise to deal-breaker status for administration officials.
Even with an allocations deal in place, however, there is no guarantee that a bipartisan omnibus package can be written and passed in less than the three weeks remaining before current funding expires. Differences in funding levels between the House and Senate masked an array of partisan policy disputes that will still need to be resolved for an omnibus deal to come together.
Chief among them is funding for a border wall sought by President Donald Trump and opposed by Democrats. The wall is one of the signature policy demands the Trump White House has pushed over the last four years, and it is unlikely Trump will sign a bill that does not include new construction money.
The Senate’s draft fiscal 2021 Homeland Security bill would provide the $2 billion requested by the White House. The House version provides no funds for the wall, and would rescind $1.375 billion provided in fiscal 2020 for wall construction.
Democrats could be emboldened by the election results to deny Trump the money he wants on his way out the door.
And even if an omnibus reaches Trump’s desk, there is no guarantee he will sign the package. When Trump signed a fiscal 2018 omnibus two years ago, he vowed never to sign a similar measure again.
“I’m not going to do it again,” the president said at a signing ceremony. “Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know what is in — $1.3 trillion — it’s the second largest ever.”
Paul M. Krawzak and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
(c)2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
In The News
WASHINGTON - It's the buzzword of everyone wanting to bypass GOP resistance and pass President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, and it could upend decades of precedent when it comes to the federal budget process. The word is "reconciliation," and according to the Congressional... Read More
WASHINGTON - Antony Blinken, confirmed as America's top diplomat by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, now faces a myriad of problems both within the agency he will now lead and abroad. Confirmed by a 78-22 vote Tuesday afternoon, Blinken is now the nation's 71st secretary of... Read More
Public health agencies need to implement a more strategic, unified approach in communicating public health information online on the novel coronavirus and social platforms should “amplify” it, said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., kicking off the 17th Annual State of the Net Conference. Delivering the opening keynote... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top aides to President Joe Biden have begun talks with a group of moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as Biden faces increasing headwinds in his effort to win bipartisan backing for the initial legislative effort of... Read More
WASHINGTON - Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and John Katko, R-N.Y., are urging their House colleagues to support bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting the U.S. from foreign-based disinformation campaigns. According to the lawmakers, foreign governments took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election to carry... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she will send the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the former president's trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” of the deadly Capitol Jan. 6... Read More