Restive members of the House Conservative Action Team are sending a line-in-the-sand letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., today, calling for an "automatic" continuing resolution amendment authored by Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., to be attached to the fiscal 1997 supplemental appropriations bill.
An aide to one conservative House member said the vast majority of the 70-plus members of the CATs will vote for the supplemental only if it includes the Gekas amendment, which would continue government spending at 98 percent of FY97 levels into FY98 if the new fiscal year begins without enactment of annual appropriations bills.
Late Wednesday, the letter had garnered 30 signatures and the aide said 50 signatures is a "solid number" they are aiming for. Athough the aide admitted that a supplemental without the CR language could pass the House without the support of conservatives, the aide suggested the GOP leadership would be setting a dangerous precedent by passing controversial measures with majority support from Democrats.
At presstime, spokeswomen for Gingrich and Majority Leader Armey were unable to comment on whether the leaders would favor including the CR in the House supplemental; Armey has said the leadership would support the CR provision in conference if it were passed by the Senate. The House vote on the supplemental is slated for May 14.
Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to resume debate today on the supplemental bill, as White House aides and Republicans continue their negotiations over funding levels for an automatic CR. Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.,who with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, sponsored the CR amendment, offered an amendment late Wednesday to raise the level of funding for federally funded programs in the CR from 98 percent of FY97 levels to 100 percent of FY97 levels.
The White House, however, is insisting that President Clinton would only sign a bill containing the CR provision if it provided funding at the same levels that were approved as part of last week's balanced budget agreement.
Key floor votes on the funding issue are scheduled for today beginning at 10 a.m., when the Senate will vote on a motion by McCain to table an amendment by Appropriations Committee ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., that would strike the automatic CR from the supplemental package.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Stevens said he expects there will be a final vote on the supplemental bill around 6 p.m., assuming the two sides have reached agreement on funding levels for the CR provision.
McCain held out hope that an agreement would be reached sometime today before the fight gets too ugly.
"I'm still hopeful that at some point before we have a real showdown and a possible veto ... that we can get an agreement worked out," McCain said.