Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has scheduled a vote on a continuing resolution (click here for CR and CR Sections) without legislative riders to keep the government operating beyond the end of the month.
Democrats oppose the bill due to the exclusion of emergency funding to rebuild water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan where officials discovered last year that the city’s drinking water system had been contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.
The measure includes emergency funding for flood relief in Louisiana, as well as West Virginia and Maryland. It also includes emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, an issue that has been contentious over Planned Parenthood gaining access to a small amount of funds.
Democrats also are objecting to the GOP proposal because it leaves in a policy rider included in last year’s omnibus spending package that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring companies to disclose their political spending.
Democrats say keeping in that language is equal to including a rider in the stopgap spending deal, but Republicans argue that it is current law and would require a new rider to end.
A copy of the CR and a section-by-section summary is attached to the e-mail bearing this report.
Democrats and Republicans continue to argue over provisions in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The main points of contention are: an amendment in the House-passed bill (H.R. 4909) by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) concerning discrimination in federal contracting, and a disagreement on whether to require that a species of bird called the greater sage grouse be removed by law from the endangered species list on the grounds that protecting it is impairing the military from full use of training ranges in the Western U.S.
Critics of Russell’s provision say it would overturn an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Russell argues his amendment, which the committee adopted before sending the bill to the House floor, is meant to protect religious liberty.
HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) has been meeting with Armed Services Committee leaders to reconcile the House bill with its Senate companion (S. 2943). On the sage grouse issue, Smith has suggested that the dispute was unnecessary, because the Environmental Protection Agency plans to remove the bird from the endangered list anyway.
Given that conference talks are not likely to conclude before the lame-duck session, there will be little time for Congress to send the president a second version of the bill, if he vetoes the first one over one of these issues.
Still, Smith is confident that lawmakers and the president will get the measure done before New Year’s Day.
Bipartisan negotiations on the CR package, despite arguments in other areas, appear to have come to a consensus over health care program spending. Zika virus response spending provisions include $1.1 billion in funding but exclude disputed previous provisions regarding the distribution of funds for contraception services and a waiver of environmental rules on pesticide spraying to kill mosquitos.
The spending package includes $400 million in offsets taken from previously appropriated money to combat the Ebola virus and the package rescinds unobligated funds allocated to set up health insurance exchanges in U.S. territories. The measure also includes increased temporary funding to aid opioid misuse response programs.
The stopgap spending provisions continue funding for federal health agencies until December 9, but would match FY16 discretionary spending levels. Additionally, the new stopgap spending package includes provisions delaying the expiration of a Food and Drug Administration program seeking to entice the development of rare pediatric diseases.
Separately on Thursday, the Senate passed revised measure (S. 1878), which also extends the FDA drug voucher program until the end of the year.
House water reauthorization bill (H.R. 5303) negotiations have stalled over the removal of a provision to strengthen the use of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, meant to help pay for port and harbor dredging. The bill now omits the section that would have effectively made spending by the trust fund mandatory rather than discretionary starting in 2027.
Originally, the Water Resources and Development Act moved out of committee with bipartisan support, but Democrats have expressed opposition to the measure over the trust provisions as well as the lack of aid to Flint, Michigan. The Senate version of the bill (S. 2848), passed on September 15, included assistance for the city.
Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) says he supports more investment in infrastructure, but the Harbor Trust Fund provision “had to be removed to ensure compliance with the Rules of the House and the Congressional Budget Act.”
Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday that the House is likely to consider WRDA next week, and the Rules Committee set a Monday evening hearing to consider amendments to the bill.
The House originally scheduled votes today but abruptly adjourned for the week at the end of voting on Thursday. The Senate has also concluded activity for the week.
With just nine days remaining before government funding expires on September 30, lawmakers insist that everything remains on the table until a final agreement has been reached. But several issues have remained the key sticking points.
Here are five unresolved issues that could possible stall a continuing resolution needed to avoid a partial government shutdown:
- Emergency Aid: The biggest funding dispute that is unresolved is whether or not to provide relief for Louisiana, ravaged by severe flooding, or aid for Flint, Mich., devastated by lead contamination in the city water supply. The White House recently indicated it wants to leave those issues for December rather than further bog down the CR negotiations.
- Export-Import Battle: A bi-partisan coalition want the continuing resolution to include a rider that would effectively restore full operations at the Export-Import Bank. But many conservatives, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI), dislike the credit financing agency. Senators on both sides of the debate have staked their vote on the overall spending package to whether or not the Export-Import Bank rider is included.
- Internet Transition: Members have given conflicting accounts of whether negotiators are still debating a provision to stop the Obama administration from transferring oversight of internet domain name registrations to an international organization. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other conservative Republicans continue to push for the provision’s inclusion, but at least one senior Senate Democrat has suggested the rider has been dropped.
- SEC Rider: A policy dispute that emerged during the negotiations was over a campaign finance rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission that could force corporations to disclose campaign spending.
- Syrian Refugees: Language to effectively freeze the resettlement of certain Middle Eastern refugees in the U.S. has been the main policy ask for conservatives, led by the House Freedom Caucus. This language has been deemed a “poison pill” by Democrats and will not be included in the spending package.