House Leadership Tips Hand on CR Preference

Ryan, McCarthy both suggest interest in finishing approps process this year

On government funding decisions, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan appear in sync with Republican appropriators and defense hawks who want to pass new spending policy before the end of 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday the House Republican Conference would discuss the appropriate length of a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, but both indicated that their preference is for one that lasts through December. 

"I’m sure we will have a successful outcome just to make sure the trains are running on time while we negotiate the individual spending bills throughout the fall," Ryan said on Janesville, Wisconsin, radio station WBEL.

[David Hawkings' Whiteboard: Continuing Resolutions]

The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and Congress will need to pass a CR to keep government funding flowing while it finishes its appropriations work.

The speaker's comment that individual appropriations bills will be negotiated throughout the fall suggests an interest in wrapping up those negotiations this year, likely with an omnibus spending bill in December. That would indicate that he prefers a CR to keep the government funding until then, rather punting into 2017.

McCarthy also expressed a preference for finishing appropriations work this year. 

"I would like to see us get all of our approps work done," the California Republican said. "If we were into December that would still give us the time to maybe get the rest of the approps stuff finished with legislation."

Ryan and McCarthy's comments reflect a sentiment shared by Republican appropriators and defense hawks who want to pass new spending policy before the end of 2016. Their view also suggests a pragmatic approach about what legislation can pass both chambers, as Senate Democrats have vowed to block a CR that would extend into 2017.

Pushing for a CR through December will nonetheless anger House Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives who do not want to negotiate an omnibus during a lame-duck session. Conservatives prefer punting funding into March 2017, giving a new president and Congress time to negotiate appropriate spending levels and policy. 

"We think it’s a mistake to have a CR that lands in the lame-duck session," House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio told Roll Call last week. "It’s creating an environment that’s typically led to increased spending."

While pushing the CR into 2017 comes with some risk that Democrats will have more power than they do now if they win the White House and take control of the Senate, conservatives don't seem phased by that. 

"I don’t think it’s any more risky than what’s coming in the lame-duck based on what we know," Jordan said. 

McCarthy blamed conservatives for the House being behind on the appropriations process. 

"There are some in the conference that wouldn't let us start at the time we wanted to start," he said.

[Ryan Faces Competing GOP Interests in September Session]

The majority leader was referring to House Republicans' impasse earlier this year over a budget resolution. Because the House did not adopt a budget resolution, they had to wait until April 15 to begin passing appropriations bills on the floor.

Leadership had backed a budget resolution the Budget committee drafted and approved that would have set the top-line for fiscal 2017 spending at $1.07 billion, but conservatives preferred a top-line of $1.04 billion. The differences were never resolved, which delayed the appropriations process by about a month.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that the omnibus negotiated and passed last December was a good example of what to expect on appropriations this year. 

“The CR would be a simple extension giving time for the Appropriations Committee and the Congress to work its will on an omnibus as we did last year,” Hoyer said. “This is not unprecedented.”

Asked about the House conservatives' posture on a CR, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas responded with a message of his own: "Have they voted for any appropriation bill?"

"I'd be in favor of regular order, but that's been blocked by the Democrats, just as they have blocked Zika funding," Cornyn said. "That's left us with the hand we're dealt with now. But, I'm confident we'll work it out."

Rema Rahman and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. 

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