DeLauro pushing for short stopgap funding bill, no ‘anomalies’

But plan may not gain sufficient GOP support in Senate

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro says she’s ready to work through disagreements with Republicans over the spending bills.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro says she’s ready to work through disagreements with Republicans over the spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 18, 2021 at 5:30pm

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro said Thursday she wants a short-term continuing resolution that doesn’t go beyond December to make as much progress as possible toward an omnibus package in the few weeks Congress has left in session.

The Connecticut Democrat told reporters during a briefing she doesn’t plan to include any so-called anomalies in that stopgap spending bill.

Anomalies are provisions that allow federal agencies to alter their spending levels and start projects they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to under CRs, alleviating some of the frustration with what’s supposed to be a fallback measure. DeLauro said she views anomalies as a way to “come around” the regular process of passing full-year bills.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said Thursday afternoon that lawmakers may pass a “short” CR after the Thanksgiving break in order to try to pass at least some of the fiscal 2022 spending bills.

“It’d be wrong if we don’t get any of our bills,” the Vermont Democrat said. “Otherwise, if we don’t, we’re just going to do continuing resolutions and that’s going to be cutting everything, including cuts to defense.”

That plan might not gain the Republican support it needs to clear the Senate and avoid a partial government shutdown when the temporary government funding law expires on Dec. 3

House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Tuesday she doesn’t support a two-week CR extending spending authority through Dec. 17, which House Democrats have been discussing.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, his chamber’s top Republican appropriator, said Wednesday it would take a “miracle” to work out a deal before mid-December and that he would expect a longer stopgap spending bill, possibly into February or March.

If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out full-year appropriations bills by then, Shelby predicted the stopgap spending bill would last through the end of the fiscal year.

The two parties have been stuck on funding allocations, with Republicans opposed to the 2 percent boost for defense accounts in House bills while foreign aid and domestic programs would get around 16 percent more than the prior year.

Republicans have also said they want Democrats to agree to drop “poison pill” policy riders as a condition for negotiating full-year spending bills.

If Republicans agree to begin talks, DeLauro said she would “entertain” a higher defense funding level. But she said she doesn’t accept the “extreme position” by GOP senators that Democrats “recede on an unknown number of policy issues before” the two sides begin negotiations.

Senate Democrats’ versions of the fiscal 2022 spending bills are a little closer to the GOP position on allocations. They’d boost defense by 5 percent, in line with bipartisan levels in the annual defense authorization bills, and add about 13 percent to nondefense funds above the previous year.

‘A new time’

Shelby has said he wants equal increases for defense and nondefense accounts, though the Alabama Republican has also said his party hasn’t coalesced around exactly what those levels would be. Shelby also wants to return to status quo policy language, including adding back several provisions that prevent the federal government from funding abortion access with limited exceptions.

DeLauro said that doesn’t align with what appropriators have done in the past, when they’ve reached agreement on spending levels before negotiating the bills at the subcommittee level, with unresolved issues kicked up to the full committee and then leadership. 

In recent years that process started with congressional leaders and the White House setting spending caps that were higher than those stemming from a 2011 deficit reduction law.

In 2019, a deal between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin generally precluded any contentious policy riders from making it into the bills that weren’t yet written unless agreed to by leadership and the White House. DeLauro appeared to rule out a similar agreement this time around.

“I want to move to getting the numbers, and I want to move to a discussion. I’m not going back to whatever was done the last time,” she said. “This is a new time, this is a new Congress, a new chair, a new president and new majorities in the House and Senate.”

But DeLauro acknowledged the need for bipartisan support in the evenly divided Senate, where it takes 60 votes to move appropriations bills to a final vote.

“I understand strong disagreements with some of the provisions in the Democratic bills,” she said. “I get it, and I respect the disagreements here. I’m ready to work through them. Let’s go. Let’s have the discussion. Let’s begin it.”