Loading...

Lawmakers a Step Closer to Averting Dec. 11 Government Shutdown

November 25, 2020by David Lerman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
Lawmakers a Step Closer to Averting Dec. 11 Government Shutdown
Last glimpse of fall at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Dan McCue)

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

Health

Voting

Congress

February 3, 2023
by Dan McCue
Bipartisan Bill to Benefit ‘VetDogs’ Reintroduced

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill intended to benefit service dogs working with disabled veterans has been reintroduced by Rep. Patrick... Read More

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill intended to benefit service dogs working with disabled veterans has been reintroduced by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. H.R. 807, The Working Dog Commemorative Coin Act, would direct the Treasury Department to mint a three-coin commemorative series honoring the role working dogs... Read More

February 3, 2023
by Dan McCue
Comer Determined to Advance Inquiries Into Bidens, White House

WASHINGTON — Speaking before the National Press Club this week, House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., said his panel is... Read More

WASHINGTON — Speaking before the National Press Club this week, House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., said his panel is determined to press investigations into President Joe Biden and his family to ensure they did not illegally profit from relationships with China. “Unfortunately … I feel... Read More

February 2, 2023
by Dan McCue
McCarthy, Biden, Have ‘Good’ First Meeting on Debt Crisis 

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., emerged with a smile from an hour of highly anticipated budget talks with... Read More

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., emerged with a smile from an hour of highly anticipated budget talks with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, but gave no indication how quickly next steps will progress to avoid a default on the national debt. “The president and... Read More

February 2, 2023
by Dan McCue
House Votes to Boot Rep. Omar From Foreign Affairs Committee

WASHINGTON — The House voted largely along party lines to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs Committee.... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House voted largely along party lines to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution voted on Thursday cited a half dozen comments Omar had made between 2019 and 2021 that were deemed to be antisemitic. In the end,... Read More

February 2, 2023
by Dan McCue
Travel Group Urges White House, Congress to Take Steps to Boost Industry

WASHINGTON — The travel industry has made progress in recovering from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, but a full... Read More

WASHINGTON — The travel industry has made progress in recovering from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, but a full recovery won’t be achieved until the last COVID restrictions are lifted, including restrictions on travel from China, representatives of the U.S. Travel Association said on Thursday.... Read More

January 30, 2023
by Dan McCue
Kilmer Says Best Economic Returns Depend on Bipartisanship

WASHINGTON — Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., admits he initially found the notion slightly intimidating. Day after day as he arrived... Read More

WASHINGTON — Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., admits he initially found the notion slightly intimidating. Day after day as he arrived for work in the economic development office in Tacoma-Pierce County, Washington, he was greeted by a sign that said, “We are competing with everyone, everywhere, every... Read More

News From The Well