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  • Washington Highlights

    Spending Bill Negotiations Continue As CR Expiration Looms

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    House lawmakers Dec. 7 were expected to consider a spending measure (H.J.Res. 123) extending from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22 a continuing resolution (CR, P.L. 115-56) to keep the government operating. If enacted, the bill would carry forward all provisions from the previous CR, including a prohibition on any changes to support provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research facilities and administrative (F&A) costs.

    The House Rules Committee advanced the measure Dec. 6 under a closed rule prohibiting changes to the CR. The committee’s approval came after postponing the hearing by a day, as members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus urged GOP leaders to use Dec. 30 as the expiration date for the CR instead of Dec. 22.

    Instead, House leaders opted to keep the stopgap to two weeks, setting the stage for Congress to complete negotiations on a budget framework that would raise the caps on discretionary spending, followed by another CR into January to allow appropriators time to draft and finalize the 12 annual spending bills for FY 2018 under the revised caps.

    House and Senate leaders in both parties were scheduled to meet with the president Dec. 7 to discuss such a budget deal, with Democrats pressing for any increases in the defense spending caps be matched by equal increases in nondefense spending. Democrats also are seeking a commitment to include a fix for individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status as part of any year-end legislation, which Republican leaders have rebuffed.

    Early Dec. 7, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats were pledging to vote against the CR. Without support from the Democrats, House leaders would need members of the House Freedom Caucus to vote for the CR for it to advance to the Senate.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed confidence over the vote to reporters Dec. 7. Freedom Caucus members were softening their objections to the CR by Dec. 6, citing assurances that GOP leaders would not cut deals with Democrats when drafting the subsequent CR to extend government funding past Dec. 22. Press reports also suggested a potential movement to include full year appropriations for the Department of Defense to the expected Dec. 22 CR, a proposal that Leader Pelosi criticized as a nonstarter for Democrats.

    Prospects for the CR also remain unclear in the Senate, where Republicans need at least eight Democrats to support the measure to send it to the president’s desk.

    In addition to keeping the federal government open, the CR also includes a provision that would allow the administration to provide additional funding through Dec. 31, for certain states experiencing shortfalls in funding their Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Federal funding for CHIP expired Sept. 30, and Congress has yet to reauthorize funding for the program. Both chambers support a five year extension for CHIP funding.