White House ‘Opening Gambit' Kicks Off Fight Over New Stopgap

By Nancy Ognanovich

Aug. 26 — The White House kicked off this fall's fight over federal spending, sending to Capitol Hill an initial wish list of items it wants included in a must-pass bill to prevent a government shutdown at the end of September.

The list of so-called anomalies in what otherwise would be an extension of current spending levels includes requests to facilitate more funding on items ranging from border control to the presidential inauguration. The request will now will be subject to scrutiny by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, as they work to develop a new continuing resolution that they can pass before current funds lapse Sept. 30.

Congressional aides said they view the list received by House and Senate appropriators as an “opening gambit” in the two sides' negotiation over a CR that is expected to run into December. Appropriators are expected to begin talks with administration officials on its details well before lawmakers officially return to work Sept. 6.

The government needs a CR for funding because Congress did not enact any of the 12 regular fiscal 2017 appropriations bills. Absent a stopgap, funds will stop flowing to the agencies when the government's fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“The details of what the administration is looking for have to be adjudged credible, and there has to be a spending level that's clear and transparent,” a senior Republican aide told Bloomberg BNA, summing up GOP leaders' approach to those talks.

CR to Mid-December

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are determined to avoid any replay of the 2013 government shutdown and the economic upheaval it could generate as this year's election season enters its critical phase, aides said.

Aides said House chiefs of staff were told in recent meetings to expect that Ryan will develop a three-month CR that he can bring to the floor no later than the week of Sept. 19. The Senate would be prepared to take it up the following week, they said.

Those meetings occurred at the same time that the initial White House list was under circulation in the Capitol. The two-part list includes spending or appropriations changes as well as proposed language on authorization issues.

“This represents a limited package of anomalies sent from OMB to the appropriators to ensure government functions and services operate under a CR until full-year appropriations legislation is enacted,” an OMB official said.

The documents indicate the White House is proposing the anomalies for a CR that would run through mid-December. Among other things, it recommended adjustments to ensure that payments for a wide variety of social service programs—including child nutrition programs and Medicaid grants—keep flowing at current levels.

The OMB also wants adjustments to ensure additional resources for the Department of Homeland Security, including Transportation Security Administration screeners and Customs and Border Protection staffing. The agency said it wants changes to help implement a new surface transportation law that authorizes extra resources for Amtrak as well. More resources are also needed to help implement the Toxic Substance Control Act recently enacted by Congress, the request said.

Controversies Also Raised

The White House is seeking money to pay for security and other costs associated with the 2017 inauguration and presidential transition, requesting more than $21 million for the Office of the President, National Park Service, General Services Administration and other agencies for these activities.

But the list includes some contentious items. Among other things, the OMB is seeking an authorization for a $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee to Iraq, part of a larger package developed by the International Monetary Fund. The plan aims to help Iraq pay the costs of fighting Islamic State militants and to help its economy.

The White House further wants to address a controversy that has stymied the work of the Export-Import Bank. Senate Republicans have refused to fill a vacancy on the bank's board, leaving the bank without the quorum of three board members required to approve transactions of more than $10 million.

The administration wants language in the CR to amend the bank's statutory requirement that its board have a quorum to take any action. While Congress reauthorized the bank in a year-end omnibus appropriations act in 2015, the bank's operations have been significantly hampered and a number of U.S. companies have moved overseas as a result, the OMB request said.

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

To view the list of anomalies requested for appropriations issues, see http://src.bna.com/h5x.

To view the list of anomalies addressing authorization issues, see http://src.bna.com/h5J.

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