House Passes One Week Stopgap Spending Bill

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Lawmakers send measure to Senate and hope for full-year omnibus by new Dec. 18 deadline.

The House on Wednesday passed a stopgap funding bill 343-67 that would give lawmakers an additional week to come up with full-year spending legislation and avoid a government shutdown later this month. 

The continuing resolution would last for one week, setting a new funding deadline of Dec. 18. The Senate must still pass the CR and President Trump must sign it by Friday to avoid a government shutdown, which both are expected to do. 

Congressional leaders had expressed optimism they would have time to draft and pass an omnibus appropriations bill to set line-by-line fiscal 2021 funding for every agency before this Friday’s deadline, but several outstanding issues have delayed that process. Among the issues that have held up spending talks are how to fund access to private sector care through the Veterans Affairs Department and spending on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Congressional leadership is also seeking a compromise agreement on COVID-19 relief funds to attach to the omnibus bill. While momentum has grown for a $900 billion package unveiled with bipartisan, bicameral support last week, hurdles remain over liability protections for businesses that Senate Republicans have insisted be included in the agreement.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the passage of the fiscal year’s second stopgap bill represented a miscarriage of congressional responsibility. 

“The CR is a recognition of failure,” Hoyer said. “It's not anybody's individual failure, it's not a bad thing, it's just that we have had trouble getting together and coming to an agreement.”

He vowed to push for regular appropriations to set spending levels for fiscal 2022, saying the House will finish its appropriations work next year by June 30 and allow for 90 days to reach an agreement with the Senate. 

“This is something we have to do to keep the government working,” Hoyer said of the CR, “but we ought not to believe or pretend or represent this is the way we ought to do business. It is not. It is a function of procrastination, a function of failing to come together and making compromises.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who will chair the House Appropriations Committee in the 117th Congress, said lawmakers simply needed more time to iron out the remaining wrinkles in the spending talks. 

“Let’s support the ongoing negotiations,” DeLauro said. “People are desperate. They are counting on us."

Appropriations leaders in the House and Senate have reached an agreement on the top-line funding level for each of the 12 spending bills Congress must pass each year. Most federal agencies are set to receive a funding boost under a two-year budget agreement struck in 2019, but the precise details are still being negotiated along with the COVID-19 relief package.

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