Emergency Spending Requests Weighed in Omnibus Talks

Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:03pm

White House emergency spending requests are taking a back seat to a debate about whether to use a wrap-up fiscal 2015 spending package to block executive actions on immigration.

But that doesn’t mean the emergency proposals are not a factor as appropriators and their staffs try to negotiate a $1 trillion, wrap-up omnibus behind closed doors over the next few weeks.

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told CQ Roll Call that staffers have been “scrubbing” a pair of emergency funding requests the White House submitted last week. They proposed $6.2 billion to fight the Ebola outbreak and $5.6 billion for operations against the Islamic State terrorist group.

“We are looking at them carefully. We know there’s a need and we’re going to try to address it,” Rogers said in an interview.

Appropriators want to have the package negotiated by early in the week of Dec. 8 to give both chambers time to move it before Dec. 11, when the current stopgap (PL 113-164) expires.

Jack Kingston, R-Ga., chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee, said he has been speaking with top administration officials regarding the Ebola request.

“Trying to keep this in perspective but also trying to be mindful of what the threat actually is and where the line is between the panic and the reality,” Kingston said on Nov. 14.

Thus far, the Ebola requested has faced little resistance including at both Senate Appropriations and House Foreign Affairs committee hearings this week. Some Senate appropriators suggested even more money may be needed for fighting the disease in West Africa.

Omnibus negotiators are also weighing a $3.7 billion emergency spending request dating back to the summer to manage the surge of child migrants at the Southwest border.

Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, said the White House is still “pushing hard” for additional money even though the number of border apprehensions has dropped significantly since the summer months.

“We know what’s going on right now, but we can’t predict that it will stay that way and that’s what we have to account for,” said Granger, who also chaired a special working group this summer on the border crisis. She said she’s looking to fold in many of the group’s policy recommendations into the text of the spending bill.

Even if appropriators are forced to resort to a continuing resolution to fund agencies at current levels for fiscal 2015, additional emergency money for Ebola and the Islamic State could still ride on the legislation.