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Sept. 6 — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he would like to see a stopgap government funding bill that gives lawmakers enough time to wrap up appropriations for the year, seemingly opening the door to a bill that would meet Democrats' demands.
“We're a Republican majority. We can control the House. We have to get something signed into law. I would like to see us get all of our approps work done,” McCarthy told reporters Sept. 6 as lawmakers returned to Washington after a seven-week break.
“If we were into December, that would still give us the time to maybe get the rest of the approps stuff finished, the legislation. We will take this up as a conference, and the conference will be able to decide. It takes 218 votes,” he said.
A House Republican conference to discuss only the continuing resolution issue has been slated for early Sept. 9, according to Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas).
Democratic lawmakers, as well as the White House, have pushed for a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government open past the Oct. 1 start of fiscal year 2017, but only into December. After that, a post-election session—with a lame-duck President Barack Obama—could work on bundling appropriations bills into a larger omnibus bill, the thinking goes.
But some House Republicans, including many in the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative and libertarian Republican members, object to a CR ending in December, saying a lame-duck session will undermine spending discipline. Instead, they are pushing for a CR running to March 2017.
Democrats on both sides of the Capitol continued to say a stopgap bill going beyond December was not acceptable.
“A continuing resolution should be, in my view, passed as soon as possible. It should go to sometime in December, and we ought to finish our work for the fiscal year 2017 year by the end of 2016,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said. “I am opposed to, as I've said before, any continuing resolution which takes us into calendar year 2017, March or some other date. There is no excuse, only political reasons.”
“We cannot ignore the nation's work any longer. President Obama will reject any continuing resolution that extends into 2017,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor.
One idea for easing a CR's passage is to add money to fight the Zika virus (see related story in this issue). A bill that included that money as part of a larger appropriations bill (H.R. 2577) lost a procedural vote in the Senate late Sept. 6. The bill, which needed 60 votes to advance, fell on a 52-46 tally. Democrats have said the bill includes unneeded language on family planning and pesticide spraying, while Republicans have said Democrats are blocking the bill to score political points.
Hoyer said he did not have a preference whether Zika funding was passed as part of a CR or on a standalone basis. “I think we could do them individually, or we could combine them. Both are responsible things to do, and if they put them together, that would be fine with me,” he said.
Hoyer said Democrats would likely support a bipartisan $1.1 billion funding package for combating Zika, even though Obama originally asked for $1.9 billion. “If that were put on the floor, as I would urge the Republicans to do it, I think it would pass,” Hoyer said.
McCarthy declined to say whether he thought Zika funding should be attached to a CR, saying ahead of the Senate vote that Democrats should stop filibustering the money.
“We believe the Democrats should stop playing politics with it and pass it,” he said.
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