Shutdown Provision Passes House

The House Thursday passed an $8.4 billion emergency supplemental spending package Thursday amid a presidential veto threat over the bill's most contentious provision: a so-called automatic continuing resolution aimed at preventing government shutdowns.

The fiscal 1997 supplemental package passed the House despite assorted opposition to the CR provision, which would take effect if Congress were unable to pass all 13 appropriations measures by the end of the fiscal year. The provision would freeze spending levels for federal programs at last year's levels.

The CR amendment passed on a 227-197 vote.

Democrats opposed the CR, charging it provided an "easy out" for Republicans not to fulfill their responsibility to complete the annual appropriations process.

A number of conservatives, on the other hand, opposed tying the CR to the supplemental package, but wanted a CR provision passed separately.

The Senate last week passed a supplemental bill including the CR provision, although negotiations between the White House and Republicans over the CR has continued.

President Clinton has said he would only support an automatic CR funded at the same levels as those contained in the new balanced budget agreement.

Republicans argue the president's motivation is purely political, considering that previous CRs all have been funded at the prior year's levels.

The House also decisively defeated an amendment by Rep. Mark Neumann, R-Wis., to rescind $3.6 billion in undefined budget authority, a proposal that had drawn some support from conservatives who disputed the argument that the emergency spending actually was being offset.

Later in the debate, after a series of points of order by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Al., deleted $1.7 billion in offsets for the supplemental spending, the House rejected another amendment by Neumann to make up the shortfall by eliminating an equal amount of advance funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by a 305-115 vote.

House Appropriations Chairman Livingston indicated that the shortfall would be taken care of during conference with the Senate.

Also during debate on the supplemental Thursday, the House approved an amendment supported by the White House that would add $76 million in spending for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, up from the $38 million for WIC previously approved.

The House also removed language granting a limited exemption for flood control projects damaged during this year's flooding after House Resources Chairman Young raised a point of order against the provision.

Young and other supporters withdrew from floor consideration more extensive legislation approved by the committee after the House adopted a substitute similar to the appropriations language. The Senate-passed bill also includes a limited waiver.

And, in a victory for wheat-growing states, the House rejected a rollback in farmland idled under the Conservation Reserve Program.

A provision that was stripped from the supplemental bill would have barred the Agriculture Department from enrolling more than 14 million acres this year in the CRP.

The acreage cap was designed to force USDA to tighten the program's eligibility rules. That would shift some acreage in the program from the Plains states and Pacific Northwest to the East.

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