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Party Line House Vote Keeps Govt. Open Through Dec. 16

September 30, 2022 by Dan McCue
Party Line House Vote Keeps Govt. Open Through Dec. 16
The U.S. Capitol. Oct 28, 2021. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The House approved a short-term stopgap spending bill Friday, averting a partial shutdown of the government that could have begun at midnight.

The 230-201 vote in the Democratic-led House was largely along party lines.

The so-called continuing resolution passed the Senate by a 75-25 vote on Thursday and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The Senate passed the measure after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., agreed to pull an attached bill that would have dramatically streamlined the permitting process for oil and gas and other energy projects.

Its passage means Congress will now have more time to work out a comprehensive spending package for the rest of the 2023 fiscal year.

“With the many challenges facing our nation and the world, including devastating natural disasters and the high cost of living, this bill guarantees we have the means to continue the important work we are doing to help middle class and working families with the cost of living, support vulnerable Americans by keeping roofs over the heads of millions of families and food on their tables, uphold our commitment to our veterans, and strengthen our national security,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., in a written statement.

“I am proud that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle joined House Democrats in passing this legislation that also includes resources to help communities across the country recover from natural disasters and necessary emergency funding to support the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia’s grievous invasion,” she said.

“But passing this bill is just a temporary measure as Congress turns to enacting final 2023 funding bills before the end of the year. I look forward to bicameral, bipartisan negotiations with my counterparts to complete the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process as soon as possible,” DeLauro added.

Continuing resolutions typically fund most federal agencies at current levels through the bill’s expiration period, though occasionally they provide much-needed additional funding to agencies or programs in dire need.

This year’s winner in that sweepstakes appears to have been the Food and Drug Administration, which saw its user fee agreements extended for an additional five years.

Had it not been granted that extension, it would have been forced to furlough as many as 3,500 employees, most of them tasked with approving drug and medical device applications.

The CR also includes $18.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to current and future disasters, including Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida on Wednesday and was moving up the coast of the Carolinas while the vote was taking place.

In addition, the bill transfers $3 billion from the Defense Department to the State Department to support Afghan resettlement operations.

Other provisions in the package include:

  • $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help address pressure on low-income households’ pocketbooks due to inflation.
  • Language that allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obligate up to the full year amount available under the CR for the Disaster Relief Fund if needed to respond to declared disasters, such as Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico and severe storms, flooding and landslides in Alaska.
  • $2 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program to aid the long-term housing, infrastructure and economic recovery needs of communities impacted by disasters in 2021 and 2022.
  • $20 million for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements previously authorized for Jackson, Mississippi.
  • $2.5 billion to help New Mexico communities recover from the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history.

The legislation also includes $12.35 billion in assistance related to Ukraine, including training, equipment, weapons, logistics support and direct financial support for the government of Ukraine. 

Along with that, it also includes safeguards such as $2 million for the Department of Defense inspector general to monitor these funds and report to Congress.

What the CR doesn’t include is the Biden administration’s request for $22.4 billion in additional funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and $4.5 billion to respond to a recent outbreak of monkeypox.

As a result, the administration will be forced to put off restarting its program to provide free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to households through the website COVIDtests.gov.

The program was suspended earlier this month after Congress failed to provide any additional money to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.

Over the life of the program, which launched in January, the U.S. Postal Service delivered more than 600 million COVID-19 rapid tests to households nationwide.

Though most lawmakers joined DeLauro in cheering the avoidance of a partial shutdown, many expressed concern over work left undone.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., for instance, said while he was happy the FDA would avoid furloughs, he is going to continue to pursue agency reforms that didn’t make it into the CR.

“While I am pleased that we are reauthorizing user fees, which will prevent layoffs at the agency and allow FDA to continue its mission, I will continue pushing for the widely supported improvements at the agency,” he told reporters.

A similar tone was struck by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who said she was happy to see some bipartisan support for keeping the doors of government open, but also disheartened by the failure to reach a more lasting budget agreement in the time allotted.

“The American people are all too familiar with this stopgap, Groundhog Day process that involves narrowly avoiding a government shutdown year after year,” Spanberger said. “Democrats and Republicans must work together to improve our budget procedures — because families in Virginia and across our country deserve the peace of mind that their lawmakers will keep the government open and protect their jobs, livelihoods and access to government services.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, for one, challenged his colleagues to do better.

“The good news is that the House and Senate have now sent President Biden a continuing resolution to keep the government open,” he said. “The bad news is that we needed a continuing resolution because the Congress did not complete its work on full-year appropriations.

“While the House Appropriations Committee advanced all twelve of its bills on time and the House passed six of them early in the summer, we can and must do better,” Hoyer continued. “We now have until December 16 to complete work on full-year appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023, including Community Project Funding.

“I urge House and Senate appropriators to continue work expeditiously over the next several weeks so that we can reach agreement and not find ourselves again facing a funding deadline and looking at a continuing resolution as an alternative,” he said. “The American people and those who work for them in the federal government deserve to know that Congress is fulfilling its responsibility and getting its job done on their behalf.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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