WASHINGTON — House Republicans are tearing up plans to wed a full-year defense spending bill to a short-term continuing resolution for the rest of government.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, told reporters a new version of the stop-gap spending bill, needed before Friday to avert a government shutdown, will be released Wednesday.
“As soon as we post it, you’ll be able to see it,” McCarthy told reporters.
House Republicans were working to hammer out a new agreement before midnight Friday so they can leave town for the Christmas recess. To avoid a government shutdown, they must successfully factor in what the slim GOP majority in the Senate can pass.
“One way or another, we’re going to pass a CR, we’re not shutting down the government,” said Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. “The speaker’s made that clear, the president’s made that clear. That’s what we’ll achieve, and what the elements are, we’ll see.”
Even as Republicans took a victory lap Wednesday to celebrate passage of a tax overhaul, a government shutdown loomed as plans for the defense-CR hybrid bill collapsed under the weight of unrelated provisions.
Conservative Republicans are said to have withdrawn support for the hybrid CR, in part over its inclusion of an $81 billion disaster relief package.
It remains to be seen whether the next CR will deal with other contentious issues like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Veterans Choice Program or an extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
A large enough bloc of assertive House Republican defense hawks and fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus members backed the hybrid defense-CR that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., allowed it to advance. But if those groups oppose a CR without higher defense spending, Ryan would need Democratic votes to pass the CR.
Several House Republicans said they hope to see a “clean” CR, with $5.9 billion in added defense funding requested by the White House — for missile defense, a troop surge in Afghanistan, and repairs for the collision-damaged U.S. Navy destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain.
“Leadership’s going back to the drawing board on this one to figure out what they think can pass,” said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies and co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group.
“I can’t think of a bigger act of political malpractice after a successful tax reform vote than to shut the government down,” Dent said. “Talk about stepping on your own message. Really, how dumb would that be? Hey, but anything is possible around here. This is Congress.”