With only 16 scheduled legislative days before government funding runs out, Speaker John A. Boehner finally acknowledged Thursday that the House and Senate were headed toward funding the government through a continuing resolution.
A CR, omnibus — or even cromnibus — is not out of the ordinary. Though funding the government through appropriations bills is so-called regular order, the last time Congress actually passed all 12 spending bills on time was 1997. Despite GOP leadership's stated goal of restoring regular order and passing appropriations bills this year, it's long been accepted that a spending deal would be necessary at the end of the fiscal year in September. (The Senate hasn't passed a single appropriations bill this year.)
Boehner: CR Needed to Avoid Government Shutdown
Still, Boehner and other Republicans largely rejected the reality of a CR. Until today.
"The Democrats in the Senate have blocked any appropriations from coming to the Senate floor," Boehner said, choosing to put the blame for the appropriations hangup on a familiar foe.
"And while we've done six, seven, eight of our appropriations bills" — the House has passed six appropriations bills, but had put another on the floor before pulling it — "it's pretty clear given the number of days we have here in September that we're going to have to do a CR of some sort."
Boehner wouldn't say how long a potential CR would last — "no decisions have been made about that" — but appropriators are already expressing concern that a stopgap, yearlong spending bill would not incorporate changes lawmakers adopted in the individual appropriations bills.
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., gathered his 12 subcommittee chairmen together Wednesday to discuss next steps for the fiscal 2016 appropriations process. Rogers wouldn't provide many details of the meeting, but did acknowledge a major purpose of the meeting was to mull options for preventing passage of a full-year CR, especially one that would undo the work of appropriators.
“I don’t want anybody to get the idea that we would live with a full year CR,” Rogers said.
In some ways, Rogers may be on the same page as Democrats, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used part of her Thursday news conference to bash the idea of another CR.
Pelosi noted that appropriations in the House had ground to a halt over disagreements on the Confederate flag and the desire of Republican leadership to avoid politically divisive votes on the issue, and she also noted that no vote on an appropriations bill this year would have had enough support to override a presidential veto. (President Barack Obama has said he will veto any appropriations bill that locks in the sequester spending numbers.)
Pelosi urged Republicans to come to the negotiating table, lift the sequestration budget caps, and find some spending cuts in another way other than the meat ax style of sequestration. A CR at the current budget caps, Pelosi said, would be "really a very significant cut."
Pelosi also said that a CR would be "a failure," unless it were a short-term option intended to buy Congress time to negotiate a broader deal.
Meanwhile, the showdown over the budget caps, and the little time lawmakers have to work out spending disagreements, is raising the specter of another government shutdown. Just don't tell that to Boehner.
When a reporter started an appropriations question for the Ohio Republican with the statement that Congress was raising the possibility of a shutdown, Boehner interrupted the reporter. "No. We're not," he said.
Emma Dumain and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.
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