Leaders looking for combination of continuing resolution and stimulus
House Democratic leaders are working on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government beyond the end of the fiscal year and provide a stimulus to the economy. But deliberations continue over what the legislation will include, with the list getting longer, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Thursday.
"I do expect additional items on the bill," Hoyer told House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., at their evening colloquy. But "the extent has not yet been determined."
The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and Congress must pass a CR to provide additional time to finish work on the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund federal programs. To date, Congress has passed none of the annual spending bills.
Hoyer said he has had discussions with the White House on the CR, as have top Democratic appropriators. But the talks appear so far to be largely limited, sources said, with Democratic leaders and administration officials yet to decide on an exact strategy or wish list of items to include in the CR outside of the necessary government funding.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had initially sought to enact a CR and a stimulus package separately, but on Wednesday she said some of the stimulus effort may have to go into the CR.
According to individuals involved in the process, this week's economic upheaval threw both sides for a loop and helped drive the decision by Pelosi not to bring a stimulus package to the floor this week, and complicated the effort to develop the CR.
"It's a complete mess," one senior Democratic aide said of the situation. "Would you want to bring a stimulus package to the floor focused on infrastructure spending amid all this turmoil?"
Despite the distraction, sources said that the CR could be completed over the weekend in time for a vote as early as Tuesday. The fiscal 2009 Homeland Security funding bill was filed Thursday in the House and is considered a prime vehicle for the package.
Some items from the stimulus package that might find their way into the CR include an unemployment insurance extension and low income energy assistance.
Senior Democratic sources indicated that while not a definite, there appears to be some momentum for bringing a jobs package to the floor later in the week to address items that do not make it into the CR.
Hoyer said that he and Pelosi would like to have the CR that extends funding through late February or early March, though mid-November is an option, which would entail a lame-duck session.
Some Democratic leadership sources said that an extension of funding past the middle of November remains improbable.
The CR is not expected to address the expiration of oil and gas drilling restrictions on the Outer Continental Shelf. Sources said Pelosi appears intent to let the provision expire at the end of September in hopes of taking up the drilling issue next year under a new administration.
That potential strategy has the Blue Dog Coalition concerned as to whether that effort will be aimed at coming to terms on a drilling compromise or reinstating the drilling restrictions.
"That's [a reinstatement of the ban] going to be a real problem for a lot of us," said one Blue Dog.
Hoyer said Democratic leaders are willing to come back during October if necessary to address the growing financial crisis, something that was echoed by a letter Pelosi sent to Bush on Thursday evening that said, "Accordingly, we stand ready beyond the targeted adjournment date of September 26 to permit Congress to consider legislative proposals and conduct necessary investigations."