House Republicans appear to be leaning toward a government funding package that would use a continuing resolution to extend most departments’ fiscal 2016 funding levels into December while possibly finalizing fiscal 2017 spending for a handful of agencies.
Several members leaving a GOP conference meeting Friday morning said that the majority of Republicans expressed a preference for a short-term CR into December, though no final decisions have been made.
“A short-term CR, in a host of bad options, is the best,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said. “Obviously we don’t want the government to shut down. It gives us an opportunity to come back and talk about this in [the] lame-duck [session].”
Speaker Paul D. Ryan weighed the pros and cons of both a three-month and six-month CR, the two main options he’s heard from members, according to one attendee. Ryan said whatever the duration, he would prefer the House finish the appropriations process by passing individual appropriations bills or smaller packages of bills known as “minibuses.”
The attendee said more than 50 members spoke after Ryan and the “vast majority” advocated for a three-month CR.
Several conservatives, however, continued to advocate for a long-term CR.
“When Obama comes in with carrots and sticks, leaving office on a lame duck when he doesn’t have to negotiate anymore, what’s going to get thrown into the kitchen sink at the end of the year?,” Freedom Caucus member David Brat, R-Va., said. “I don’t want to find that out.”
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers suggested that December would likely be the end date.
“The bottom line is to pass a CR into December to give us a chance to pass minibuses,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Rogers said he’s not sure when the House will release a government funding proposal but that he’s not worried about the Senate, which is likely to move its own package next week.
“I don’t think they’ll jam us,” he said.
But the Senate jamming the House is a concern among many members.
The House will move a funding package “as soon as we can, ” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Roll Call. “We had a really good discussion today about it.”
Despite interest among members in finishing the 12 individual appropriations bills by December, likely through minibuses, Ryan acknowledged that may not happen, according to a member speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conference meeting.
According to the member, Ryan indicated that the priority would be to finish those spending bills covering national security and as many other bills as possible before the end of December. For unfinished bills, the House would likely pass a second CR to extend current funding for those agencies through the end of fiscal 2017.
Kinzinger acknowledged that the House could probably only get one or two minibuses done by the end of the year and “frankly end up CRing the rest.” Getting defense spending done is the most important thing, he said.
The idea of a second CR did not go over well with appropriators who are in charge of the discretionary spending not related to national security.
“There are a lot of members on our side who would like to just pass the security-related bills — defense, homeland and MilCon and then CR the rest of this for the [fiscal] year,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., chairman of the Military Construction-VA appropriations subcommittee.
Dent said he is strongly opposed to that strategy and he believes Congress has enough time to finalize all 12 bills by the end of September.
“I’m not for that,” agreed Rep. Tom Cole, the appropriator in charge of the Labor-HHS spending measure. The Oklahoma Republican said he doesn’t see the White House or the Senate accepting a CR for unfinished bills either.
“We ought to come back and finish up all our work,” Cole said. “We shouldn’t be kicking any of it past the calendar year in my view.”
Rogers said he wants to do all 12 bills and declined to speculate on what happens if that doesn’t happen.
Republicans have time to hammer out their disagreements while they try to act quickly on a short-term CR before the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30. House leaders still have to decide what to add onto the CR.
Emergency spending to address the Zika virus outbreak is widely expected to be added, members said, but there are still disagreements over how to pay for the expected $1.1 billion outlay and whether to drop language that Democrats say is designed to prevent Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving any of the money.
House Republicans are also discussing whether they can move one or more individual appropriations bills with the CR to get their minibus strategy started.
The Military Construction-VA appropriations bill is probably the most likely measure since the House and Senate have already finalized a compromise version. Other individual appropriations bills that members have floated as possible attachments to a larger CR include energy and water, defense, and legislative branch funding measures.
“If there is any opportunity to get any appropriation bill, individual appropriation bill, across the finish line at any time this month or before the end of the year, that’s better than the alternative,” Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said.
Rema Rahman and Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.