Congress

In bid to avoid shutdown, spending deal drops Violence Against Women Act extension, other contentious provisions

House and Senate conferees were signing the document Wednesday night, votes expected Thursday

Senate Appropriations leaders Richard C. Shelby, right, and Patrick J. Leahy led conference negotiations on senators’ behalf. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As negotiators were finalizing a final fiscal 2019 funding package highlighted by border security spending Wednesday evening, it became clear that an extension of the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t make the cut.

Several policy riders in the mix earlier Wednesday, including back pay for federal contractors for wages lost during the 35-day partial shutdown and the VAWA extension, didn’t make it in the final bargaining over the fiscal 2019 spending conference report, according to aides in both parties.

A senior Republican aide confirmed that the lack of an agreement on VAWA would lead the current law to lapse after Friday, though a senior Democratic aide said the expiration should have “zero impact.”

VAWA-related grant programs are funded through Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations, which are contained in the spending package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in the day that terms of a potential extension was among the final sticking points, with the Kentucky Republican having sought a stopgap extension through the end of September.

House Democrats did not want to agree to a straight extension of VAWA because they felt it would give Senate Republicans permission to ignore the broader reauthorization they plan to pass in the coming months.

Last summer, House Democrats introduced legislation to expand the scope of the law, to help victims of domestic violence and stalking stay in stable housing situations and to bar evictions based on the actions of an abuser.

The measure also includes an expansion of gun control laws aimed at prohibiting persons convicted of dating violence and stalking and those under protective orders from possessing firearms.

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Separately, the White House Office of Management and Budget wouldn’t budge on lost pay for contractors, which had never been paid during prior shutdowns, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Other sought-after provisions will have to hitch a ride on another vehicle or be dealt with as standalone measures. Questions that proved too contentious included whether to attach the annual intelligence authorization bill and other expiring authorizations, including EPA’s ability to collect certain pesticide registration fees.

A further extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding, in place through June 30, was also dropped. Language that would postpone scheduled automatic cuts, or sequester, of mandatory programs under the 2010 pay-as-you-go law, also didn’t make the cut, aides said.

Because lawmakers had racked up deficits in the previous Congress, nearly $1 billion in cuts will be triggered unless postponed in another bill. 

House and Senate negotiators were signing the seven-bill fiscal 2019 omnibus conference report Wednesday evening as they prepped to file the measure for floor consideration.

After he’d signed the conference report, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby tweeted that he spoke with President Donald Trump, who he reported “was in good spirits.” He wrote that he told Trump the wall money in the package is a “down payment” and that it was “only the beginning of a multiyear effort.”

The Senate is expected to take the first votes Thursday, according to a senior Democratic aide. House votes are not expected until the evening due to member absences for funerals for two of their former colleagues.

Senators, meanwhile, are eager to leave town. A number of them are expected to attend the Munich Security Conference, which starts on Friday.

And while Trump appears likely to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk, as the president himself might say, “We’ll see what happens.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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