Congress: The Bitter End

An appropriations season marked by bitter divisions ended Thursday night on a fitting note, as the House and Senate approved the Commerce-Justice-State spending bill amidst complaints over its census language and lingering ill will over language dropped Wednesday night from the Foreign Operations bill concerning international family planning aid, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund.

The House approved the conference report on the Commerce-Justice-State bill, the last of the 13 regular appropriations measures, by a vote of 282-110. The Senate earlier in the evening had "deemed" the conference report approved by unanimous consent.

Before adjourning and leaving town, Congress also passed one last continuing resolution for fiscal 1998, lasting through Nov. 26. The long lead time came at the request of the White House, to provide not only the usual four or five days it takes to get the paperwork from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue, but also to give administration officials time to comb through the bills to see if they want to line item veto any of the provisions. President Clinton is, however, expected to sign the remaining bills.

Still, the adjournment resolution, which passed the House 205-193 and the Senate by voice vote, specifically includes language to block Clinton from a pocket veto of the defense authorization bill merely by not signing it during the recess. The adjournment resolution authorizes the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate to receive messages from the president while Congress is gone in order to "preserve ... the constitutional prerogative of the House and Senate to reconsider vetoed measures."

Before reaching that point, though, members had to dispose of the Commerce-Justice-State bill, which was threatened not only by controversial census language, permitting the administration to continue with plans to use statistical sampling in the next census, and providing an expedited procedure by which Republicans can challenge sampling's constitutionality, but also by activities stemming from the wrapup of the Foreign Operations bill earlier Thursday.

Leaders finally sprung the Foreign Operations bill from the House Wednesday night, with anti-abortion members backing off of language to bar funding of international family planning organizations that use their own money to perform or promote abortion.

But the price of that deal involved striking from the bill two provisions the administration wanted, some $3.5 billion for a new IMF currency stabilization program and $936 million to pay back debts to the United Nations.

And Republicans made it clear the provisions will remain linked for the foreseeable future.

"The speaker told us 'I give you my word. They don't get a dime until there's some movement'" on the family planning issue, said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., leader of the effort to restore the family planning restrictions.

But while the Foreign Operations bill was approved by the Senate and sent to the president early Thursday afternoon, the ill will lingered on, with both sides accusing the other of subverting U.S. foreign policy to the desires of domestic interest groups on the abortion issue.

"I'm very disappointed in the White House decision to put domestic politics ahead of the national interest," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., at a Thursday news conference, paraphrasing a letter he sent to Clinton earlier in the day.

But House Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., said Republicans' decision to explicitly link two unrelated provisions to the family planning fight was "a negligent decision" that "does not punish Bill Clinton, it punishes the country."

Obey, however, was unsuccessful in his attempt to force modified versions of the IMF and U.N. language into the Commerce- Justice-State bill. His motion to recommit the conference report was rejected 216-171.

"You're kind of fighting the smell of jet fuel," said one Democratic appropriations aide, predicting earlier in the day that the move would fail.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.