GOP Leaders Split Over Early CR's Funding Levels

Republican leaders are divided over whether to use FY96 or FY97 funding levels for an "insurance" continuing resolution they say they want to pass soon. The CR under discussion would kick in at the beginning of FY97 on Oct. 1, if all 13 FY97 appropriations bills are not approved by then, and may last through next March. House Majority Leader Armey and a Senate Republican leadership aide said GOP leaders want to simply use the FY96 funding levels in the CR, which could be on the House and Senate floor before the August recess. But House Appropriations Chairman Livingston, who vehemently opposes passing a CR, Tuesday told reporters he will "vigorously" fight for using the House-passed FY97 funding levels as the "stepping stone" for a CR. Armey said GOP leaders will have to "sit down and discuss" what funding levels would be used in a CR. The Senate aide said some Republicans want to simply change the date on the FY96 appropriations bills, but he admitted there is a split in the House over that issue.

In recent days, Republican leaders, most notably Senate Majority Leader Lott, have become more vocal about trying to pass a CR before the August recess in order to avoid a government shutdown in case the appropriations process breaks down later in the year. "I would like for us to continue considering an early CR," Lott told reporters Tuesday, saying the need becomes even greater if the Senate remains mired in "rolling gridlock." Lott said passage of a CR would demonstrate Republicans are committed to avoiding having government shutdowns similar to last year, noting, "It's a strong indication that we want to keep things operating." He added that a motion to proceed to a CR also would release $1.3 billion in additional outlays called for in the FY97 budget resolution conference agreement. Armey Tuesday told reporters he wants to pass a CR "sooner rather than later."

Livingston initially said Congress would have trouble dealing with a CR within the next month. "Frankly, we wouldn't be able to get a CR between now and August, so I think the issue is moot," he said Tuesday. "I fail to understand the importance of it." He later said, however, that if GOP leaders are committed to a CR, it could be done. Meawhile, Democrats are becoming more vocal in their opposition to the CR.

Senate Minority Leader Daschle said discussion of a CR may lend credence to reports that Republican leaders want to adjourn for the year in August, contending, "A CR implies that they're just going to do that now and leave."

Daschle said passage of a CR would be "another example of a public admission that [Republicans] can't do the job." He said Congress should wait until late September to see if the appropriations process can work before passing a CR. And a Clinton administration official repeated the president's assertion that Congress should work on the FY97 bills. "We've got to pass all of the appropriations bills," the administration aide said Tuesday, adding it would be "too speculative" to discuss whether the president would veto a CR.

Questioned last week about the potential of doing an early CR, President Clinton said: "I would hope that we could keep working into September after we have the August recess to see what else can be done ... I would hope that we wouldn't give up this early on the prospect of progress."

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