House Republicans are piling up their agenda onto a must-pass spending bill
GOP members gathered to discuss their options Wednesday afternoon
Republicans on Capitol Hill promise they won’t shut down the government on December 22 when funding lapses, but how will they pull it off with just a handful of legislative days? Nobody can explain that.
House Republicans unveiled another short-term spending bill Wednesday night to get the government to January 19, but many of the provisions likely won’t pass muster in the US Senate.
Frustrated that the Senate hasn’t moved on spending bills this year, House Republicans are piling up their agenda onto the must-pass bill, putting Republican leadership in a tough spot between two distinctive poles: the wishes of their right flank and the politics of the US Senate.
Republicans in the House unveiled a stop-gap funding bill Wednesday night that increased defense spending and funded defense for the year while maintaining the same level of domestic spending through a temporary spending bill. They also included their own re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance program. But, multiple House Republicans acknowledged earlier in the day that this version of the legislation was going nowhere in the Senate, where eight Democrats would be needed to support any measure under Senate rules.
House Republican gathered to discuss their options Wednesday afternoon in a 90-minute meeting that one person in the room described as an opportunity for leadership to “open up the playbook.”
Yet, members emerged without any consensus on how they’d avoid a showdown with the Senate, only saying they wouldn’t let the government run out of money before Christmas.
“I don’t think they know what they want to pass, that’s the problem,” Kentucky GOP Rep. Tom Massie told reporters.
During the Republican conference meeting, multiple Republican members said that there was so much frustration about the Senate that some members were urging the House to just pass their bill and skip town, forcing the Senate to decide between shutting down the government or passing the House version of the bill.
“A lot of people said that we should leave,” said Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida. “We never leave. We’re always worried about what the Senate’s gonna do and are trying to anticipate what shortcomings they’re going to have, and I’m telling you there’s members of the House that are really getting tired of that.”
Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania set to retire after 2018, lamented that some of his colleagues have a case of “Senate denial.”
“It’s the usual tactical tantrums, navel gazing that we engage in from time to time as we create these self-inflicted dramas,” Dent told reporters after the meeting, mocking his colleagues about the demands they place on must-pass bills regularly come before spending deadlines.
“We deny the existence of the United States Senate from time to time and they do exist,” he said, predicting the Senate would strip out the defense funding and send the stopgap bill back to the House with just a few bipartisan items on it.
Dent said he would back the package that House Republican leaders are crafting because he thought the House needed to act, but he also said he realized that the topline number that the GOP was pushing for defense – $621 billion – will come down, and that the number for domestic programs that Democrats want will have to come up to reach a deal on a full year budget sometime in early 2018.
Still, even after a lengthy meeting and with an acknowledgment that the House wouldn’t likely get their way, there was still no evidence that members had a clear game plan for how the conference was going to avoid a shutdown.
“It’s not cooked,” Massie said.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said that “the one unifying thought is that no one wants a government shutdown, so everybody’s looking for ways to make sure we properly fund our military.”
Dent echoed Meadows’ remarks saying, “There should not be a shutdown.”
But, Dent added a caveat.
“Accidents can happen around here,” he said.