December 15, 2011With a partial government shutdown looming, Republicans late Wednesday introduced a separate, House-bill version of a stalled Senate-House conference report containing almost $1 trillion worth of fiscal year 2012 spending bills.
Even before the filing, the White House signaled opposition to the GOP gambit.
The introduction at about 11:40 p.m. and posting of the huge bill on the House Rules Committee website clears the way for -- but does not require -- a vote in that chamber as early as Friday. A Rules Committee hearing is expected as soon as Thursday morning.
The maneuver is a response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's, D-Nev., strategy in conjunction with President Obama of blocking movement on the massive conference report including the nine unfinished 2012 appropriations bills-as a way to force Republicans to negotiate on a separate package to extend a payroll tax break and jobless benefits.
The appropriations package altogether actually includes three bills. One bill contains appropriations for Defense, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior/Environment, Labor/Health and Human Services/Education, the Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and State/Foreign Operations. Two other bills provide funding for disaster aid and recovery assistance; and offsets for the disaster funding.
In fact, bipartisan agreement on the conference report has been described as near completion by House and Senate negotiators, despite Democratic concerns over such things as provisions related to funding of abortions in Washington D.C. and limitations on visits and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans.
Essentially, House Republicans took the conference report's contents and dumped it in a new bill with its own number, thereby technically making it not a conference report and thus not requiring the signatures of Democratic conferees who helped negotiate the package.
"We've got an agreement between appropriators in the House and the Senate - Democrats and Republicans - on a bipartisan bill to fund our government. We believe that the responsible thing to do is to move this," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during an evening press conference preceding the bill's filing.
The White House bashed the move.
"The President continues to have significant concerns about a number of provisions that have been reported to be in the Republican agreement on the omnibus. This includes provisions that would undermine Wall Street reforms, enact extreme social and ideological riders, undercut environmental protections, and threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the President," said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer in a statement.
Pfeiffer continued, "Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution … so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year."
It is uncertain how much political cover passing such a bill without Senate Democratic cooperation might give House Republicans, given the fast-approaching Friday midnight expiration of a stopgap measure that has been providing temporary funding for most government agencies, meaning they might not be able to continue paying their bills.
Just three of the 12 annual spending bills that were due for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 so far have been signed into law.
But Republicans leaving a closed-door session with Boehner and other House GOP leaders on Wednesday suggested that passing a House bill would put the ball in the Senate's court. It is uncertain whether Boehner would let his Republican House members leave Washington, at least for the weekend, after approving their House version.
But Republicans leaving a closed-door session with Boehner and other House GOP leaders on Wednesday suggested that passing a House bill would put the ball in the Senate's court. It is uncertain whether Boehner would dismiss the House for the weekend if it passed the bill.
Other unanswered questions include whether House Republicans can even pass the measure without House Democratic help. A senior House GOP aide dismissed such doubts, however.
House Republicans can post 218 votes on the appropriations conference report," the aide said. "Our members are united. As a result of this show of strength, it appears Democrats are caving on appropriations." Nonetheless, some House Republicans worried that the Senate might simply amend the measure if they pass it.
"That would put the dynamite right back in our House, wouldn't it?" said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
December 15, 2011