Legislative Activity

The text of the Fiscal Year  2017 continuing resolution (CR) was released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on September 22. The $1.067 trillion spending legislation would provide full fiscal year funding for the Military Construction and Veterans Administration programs and run through December 9, 2016.  The bill includes $1.1 billion for  emergency Zika aid and eliminates a previous provision that would have barred federal funds for the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Puerto Rico.  While $500 million in emergency spending for flood assistance to Louisiana is included, funding for the troubled water system in Flint, Michigan is not.  Other controversial proposals that had previously been under discussion- including provisions making changes to the Export-Import Bank, and jurisdiction over Internet regulation- are absent. Majority Leader McConnell has “filled the amendment tree” which in effect means no amendments will be allowed on the Senate floor, putting Members in a “take it or leave it” position.  Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, termed this legislation a “Republican only bill” and said she would not support it.

When asked if the President would sign the proposal currently under review, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “it’s not at all clear to me he’s prepared to sign this bill.” The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has begun discussing contingency plans should Congress be unable to pass a CR before the current fiscal year ends on Friday.

On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would like to take up the Senate bill when it comes to his chamber, describing that path as “low drama.”  He has assuaged concerns about the omission of funding for Flint, noting that the Water Resource Development Act (HR 5303) was a more appropriate vehicle. Additionally, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) have signaled introduction of legislation this week that would trigger an automatic 40-day extension of current funding levels if Congress does not pass a spending bill in December when they return for the “lame duck” session.  As members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, they believe this would help prevent legislation at the end of the year that would bust budget caps and allow conservatives to “negotiate in good faith.”