CHN: Stopgap Spending Bill Edges Closer to Deadline

While the House was originally expected to vote last week on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded after the new fiscal year starts October 1, an eleventh hour request from the Obama Administration for money for its push against ISIS pushed the vote to this week. The vote on the $1.012 trillion temporary spending measure (H.J. Res. 124) is now expected to take place Wednesday in the House, just days before the expected recess, with the measure moving to the Senate following the House vote.
The CR will keep the government funded and operating through Dec. 11 at current FY 2014 spending levels. This would give Congress time, after the November elections, to either draft and pass an omnibus bill comprised of all 12 required spending bills, or pass another CR that will extend into 2015. If the Republicans take control of the Senate in the upcoming elections, the latter could be a more appealing option to them. Anticipating a Senate victory, Senator Cruz (R-TX) has been arguing for passing a CR that extends into next March, so that the Democratic majority in the lame duck Senate plays no role in making final decisions about FY 2015. Republicans are split on this strategy. House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) agrees with his Senate counterpart Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that it would be best to pass an omnibus bill in the lame duck session, so the new Congress does not have to start out by finishing up old work. The longer the CR lasts, agencies and programs are hurt as it severely limits their ability to adjust their spending and activities to respond to changing realities.

The request from the Administration that delayed the vote revolves around including authorization language and $500 million for the U.S. to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization. The CR, drafted before the President’s request was made last week, did not include such funding, and House leaders had to decide what they would include. Other exceptions, or so-called ‘anomalies,’ in the CR include reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank through June 2015, and funding to deal with the Ebola crisis in Africa. Not included in the CR is additional funding for the child refugee crisis, although the legislation does provide some flexibility sought by the Obama Administration for the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to move money within their agencies to continue operations to deal with the crisis. For more information on the border situation, see the related article in this Human Needs Report. Also included is an extension of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program through the duration of the CR, and an increase in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food packages for low-income elders,

The House is expected to leave town at the end of the week to hit the campaign trail and won’t be returning until after the November elections. By waiting until this week to vote, they are in essence forcing the Senate to approve whatever the House passes or risk a government shutdown, an option that is not likely to happen. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill by the end of this week or early next week and close up shop until after the November elections.

In other appropriations news, Democrats on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education released a draft of their version of the FY15 spending bill to cover these departments on Monday.  While the bill is not expected to move forward, it is useful in laying out the priorities sought by the minority party in the House, especially as neither the House nor the Senate passed a Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill through their full Appropriations Committees. The House Democrats’ bill would increase funding above 2014 levels for many programs (and return to pre-sequestration levels for some), including Head Start, job training grants, the Low Income Home energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Pell Grants, and research at the National Institutes of Health. At $155.59 billion, the overall spending level for “Labor-H” programs in the House, which was set by the Republican majority, is nearly $1.1 billion below FY 2014 levels. In July, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-HHS-Education released full detail of the bill it had approved in June. The Senate had provided the same amount for Labor-HHS-Education for FY 2015 as is available in FY 2014 ($156.77 billion). For more information on the Senate version of the bill, see CHN’s August 4 Human Needs Report.

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