President Donald Trump plans to sign the stopgap spending bill that the Senate is expected to send him this week, a senior White House official said Monday. That would avoid another partial government shutdown for now, though the fight over border wall spending and other partisan hangups will simply be punted 51 days, to just before Thanksgiving.
The continuing resolution passed the House by a vote of 301-123 last week, which eclipsed the number necessary to override a potential presidential veto. That doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario now, though it remains uncertain whether the president will change his mind. The Senate’s veto override threshold is 67 votes.
The Senate vote is expected Thursday, a GOP aide said. However, Republican Rep. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, is insisting the chamber first vote on an amendment to cut spending levels in the CR by two percent.
“We’re hoping to get that vote in exchange for letting them finish this week,” Paul said Monday. The Senate is scheduled to leave town for a two-week recess Friday; Trump has to sign the bill by midnight Oct. 1 or a shutdown would begin.
Long way to go
The stopgap measure would fund the government through Nov. 21 while appropriators and congressional leaders work to resolve their differences on the 12 annual spending bills.
The House has passed 10 fiscal 2020 spending bills, but at higher nondefense funding levels that violate the subsequently agreed-to July budget caps deal. The Senate waited until this month to start marking up its spending bills and hasn’t passed any. Senators have been mired in partisan disputes over subcommittee funding allocations, abortion policy and wall funding.
The stopgap bill isn’t entirely clean of policy riders, though they appear to have the blessing of the leadership on both sides of the Capitol and substantial GOP support. The measure won the backing of 76 Republicans in the House — 38 percent of the GOP conference.
Republican supporters ticked off any number of reasons to vote for the bill during House floor debate last week.
Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, the ranking member on the House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said that while a continuing resolution is never ideal, supporting it “is the only responsible vote today, for our national security, for our economy and for the general welfare of the American people.” He also noted the inclusion of language that would waive certain matching fund requirements for Agriculture Department Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants, a program Simpson said was “vital to the success of potato farmers in Idaho.”
House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, said he was “grateful” to the Democrats for agreeing to add language that would replenish Commodity Credit Corporation coffers so the agency can keep making payments to farmers hurt by tariffs. Fortenberry also praised a provision that would enable Midwest sugar beet growers hit by recent flooding to benefit from the recently enacted $19.1 billion disaster aid package.
The bill would also extend funding for community health centers and other health care programs backed by both parties that would otherwise expire at the end of the fiscal year. It would also continue the Medicaid funding matching rate for U.S. territories through Nov. 21.
Still, 119 Republicans voted against the stopgap bill last week, with Rep. Chip Roy of Texas arguing it does nothing to fix “broken” federal programs. Even one of the bill’s backers, Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations ranking member Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama faulted the Democrats for declining to fund U.S. Marshals Service prisoner detention at the higher rate sought by the White House, driven in part by larger immigrant detainee numbers.
House Democrats also opted not to include a provision requested by the White House that would have allowed the Trump administration to build sections of the border wall outside of the Rio Grande Valley. That’s a reminder that lawmakers and the White House have yet to find a path forward on the wall project that can avoid a Thanksgiving government shutdown.
The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution that would terminate the emergency declaration Trump issued Feb. 15, which is what triggered his ability to tap $3.6 billion in unspent military construction funds to help build the wall. Trump vetoed a similar measure in March, but Democrats are hoping to pressure Senate Republicans considered vulnerable in 2020 now that the Pentagon has released its specific list of projects that will be put on hold.
Senate Republicans are also planning to add $5 billion more for the wall when they take up a draft fiscal 2020 Homeland Security spending bill this week.
Tariff relief, Ukraine aid
Although the stopgap measure would fund farmer payouts as requested, the bill contains language that would force the administration to produce detailed data on the $28 billion so-called Market Facilitation Program. House Democrats had expressed concern about transparency, citing reports of foreign-owned companies and politically connected farmers receiving payments thus far.
It also would extend the availability of $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine for another fiscal year; the White House says it has agreed to release the money it had earlier held up, but it’s another reminder for Trump of the whistleblower complaint that’s taken on a life of its own.
Trump on Monday acknowledged he talked to Ukraine’s new president about that potentially investigating former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian natural gas company.
“It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” he told reporters at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. “It’s very important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday on the whistleblower complaint he was sent that touched off the latest firestorm. The existence of the report and the fact that it was withheld from Congress despite the DNI’s Office of Inspector General labeling it of “urgent concern and credible,” has infuriated Democrats and led to renewed calls for impeachment.
Despite numerous policy and funding differences between the parties, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland expressed optimism during House debate last week that all of the fiscal 2020 spending bills can be wrapped up during the next nine weeks.
“There is no reason on God’s green Earth we cannot complete our business on the appropriations process by Nov. 21. Not a single reason — expect procrastination and an unwillingness to compromise,” Hoyer said.
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.