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CQ Roll Call | Lawmakers Begin Weighing Terms, Timing for Continuing Resolution

August 2, 2013
In The News


Lawmakers Begin Weighing Terms, Timing for Continuing Resolution

A partisan split on fiscal 2014 spending bills is setting off a scramble in both chambers to develop a stopgap measure to extend funding for the government, with Democrats and Republicans still undecided on how long to extend government programs and the scale of the spending guidelines.

The apparent collapse of movement on spending bills in both chambers is fueling the pressure to develop a stopgap measure to replace the continuing resolution (PL 113-6) that expires Sept. 30.

With only nine legislative days left until the end of the fiscal year, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio says he wants a “continuing resolution for some short period of time.” Several senior Republicans say that likely means two months, which would push talks on the rest of the fiscal year into November — around the time the federal debt limit likely will need to be raised.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a 60-day, or 30- to 60-day CR,” said Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala. “We’ve got to have some time. We’ve got a lot of issues coming up in the fall.“

Senate Democratic aides replied Friday by pouring cold water on the idea of a short-term CR. “Two months will not do it. We’re not interested in a short-term CR. We want a long-term CR,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said.

The emerging difference over duration of the CR comes as both parties are watching budget talks between Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, and a small group of senators led by Johnny Isakson of Georgia. The negotiations are aimed at finding a replacement for automatic spending cuts under the 2011 debt deal (PL 112-25)

Obama has called for a clean debt limit increase measure. The White House and Democratic leaders have argued for dealing with a number of fiscal issues separately: the next CR, a tax overhaul and a possible replacement to the sequester.

For Republicans, a short-term CR would mesh with broader efforts to load a number of these issues onto a debt-limit increase, including a plan to fund the government for the rest of 2014.

A straight-line extension of current funding through fiscal 2014 would peg discretionary spending at $988 billion. But many House Republicans are lining up to insist that the spending be set at the sequester cap of $967 billion.

“It’s an open question at this point. Most Republicans want to go with the lower number,” Aderholt said.

James Lankford of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said the House version of the CR would likely be written in line with the $967 billion target for fiscal 2014, and would provide more time for House Republicans to finish appropriations bills.

Republicans also may push to reconfigure fiscal 2014 funding to provide more resources for the Pentagon. The House-passed budget (H Con Res 25) would match the overall funding target in the debt deal but exceed a $498 billion defense spending cap by providing $552 billion for the military.

While Republicans lay groundwork for a short-term CR, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and members of the leadership team are eying versions similar to the six-month measure (PL 112-175) enacted Sept. 28, 2012.

Both sides say there will be little time to complete appropriations bills when they return from the August recess. The House has planned nine legislative days before the end of the fiscal year and the Senate has scheduled 16 days.

“The legislative calendar will start driving a lot of this,” Lankford said.

Reid and Boehner both opened the door to a stopgap bill this week after a pair of stalemates raised doubts about the fate of fiscal 2014 spending bills.

House GOP leaders pulled the Transportation-HUD spending bill (HR 2610) on July 31, when moderate Republicans balked at voting for deep spending cuts that could be washed away with a CR or a debt deal. And the Senate fell short of invoking cloture on a similar bill (S 1243) by a vote of 54-43 on Aug. 1.

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