First Look at Stopgap Nears as Senate Leaders Ready Bill

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By Nancy Ognanovich

Sept. 9 — The first look at this fall's stopgap spending bill to fund the federal government is expected the week of Sept. 12 as Senate Republican leaders prepare it for early floor action.

The details of the new continuing resolution—including a list of legislative provisions that could take a ride on the must-past bill—may begin emerging soon after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leaders from both parties meet Sept. 12 with President Barack Obama to discuss the deal. The measure, which is expected to fund the government into early December, then may move to the floor after the Senate votes on passing a water projects bill, lawmakers said.

McConnell said negotiations with the White House and congressional Democrats already have been underway for days, and Senate leaders are eager to move a continuing resolution that ensures government spending through Dec. 9. McConnell indicated that the stopgap also may carry more than $1 billion in Zika funds. Other lawmakers said the measure may contain relief for disaster-affected states, such as Louisiana.

McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) hope to move the measure quickly in order to prevent government funding from lapsing Sept. 30. The stopgap is necessary because none of the annual appropriations bills have been finalized and sent to Obama's desk.

But the details of the continuing resolution—including whether Obama will get the full $1.9 billion he requested for combating the Zika outbreak—probably won't be known until McConnell prepares to bring it up on the floor (see related story in this issue).

“[W]e're in discussions about how to work out some of the differences that we had that led to the Democrats filibustering Zika funding,” McConnell said.

‘Minibus' Bills Discussed

McConnell, Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are scheduled to meet with Obama the afternoon of Sept. 12 to discuss the must-pass bill, aides said. Action on the stopgap by month's end is one of the few must-dos before Congress departs again for the campaign trail.

McConnell recently announced plans to move a continuing resolution ahead of the House, where Ryan held back discussing his own preferences for a continuing resolution's length until holding more conversations with Republicans on Sept. 9. Ryan said both a three-month and six-month continuing resolution are under discussion.

The Speaker discussed the pros and cons of both at the closed-door meeting of Republicans but said he doesn't favor a 12-bill omnibus in a post-election session, meeting attendees said. Ryan favors acting on either individual bills or more “minibus” packages combining measures, they said after the session.

One meeting attendee said Ryan spoke for 15 minutes, while more than 50 conference members spoke in the remaining time. The “vast majority” argued for a three-month stopgap, the attendee said.

But it remains unclear whether House Republican leaders have the 218 votes necessary to pass a three-month continuing resolution on the floor without Democratic votes. Shortly after the closed-door meeting, the Heritage Foundation issued a statement saying lawmakers should try to avoid considering any spending legislation in the lame duck.

“If Congress is unable to conclude the [fiscal year] 2017 regular appropriations process by the beginning of November, a partial year appropriation would be most appropriate in order to move the funding debate to the 115th Congress,” the conservative group said in a brief.

Disaster Funds Sought

Members exiting the meeting with Ryan said they now expect Zika funds to be in whatever continuing resolution is brought to the floor. But still unclear is whether Republicans will try to retain restrictions on Planned Parenthood clinics or other “poison pill” riders that Democrats oppose.

Other unresolved issues include a White House plan to help the Export-Import Bank make loans and another to help Iraq combat ISIS. The latter was on a White House list for inclusion in the continuing resolution (See previous story, 08/29/16). Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is pushing for language to prevent the White House from transferring U.S. control of internet domain names to an international organization.

Also underway is an effort by members of the Louisiana delegation to get more than $2 billion to help the state recover from massive flooding last month. At a House hearing early Sept. 9, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said he's working with other members to win “a full recovery package” for the state.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) told an Oversight and Government Reform panel that the state has suffered more than $8.7 billion in damages, and the $2 billion for Community Development Block Grant program is only the beginning of what the state needs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Ognanovich in Washington at nognanov@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

For More Information

The Heritage Foundation brief is available at http://src.bna.com/isi.

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