With the clock ticking toward the expiration of FY 2015 funding (December 11), Congress ended the week with an uncertain strategy toward an extension in funding. There seemed to be agreement on not shutting the government down but how that would be avoided is still not clear or final.
House Republicans, largely leading the strategy, have proposed to their own members a complete year of funding (end of September 2015) for all departments except Homeland Security. That department would be funded partially to March or February. This approach is intended as a way to go after the President’s immigration executive order. As an appeasement to the most conservative members of the Republican House Caucus, a separate bill has been voted on and passed by the House. It will die in the Senate. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) does not know if he can get enough Republican votes to approve the funding bill and as a result he would then have to rely on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democrats to provide the needed votes. Pelosi has remained non-committal until the final product is done.
The bill has been referred to by some as a “cromnibus” because at least one department, Homeland Security, would get funded through a short term continuing resolution and the rest would be funded as an omnibus appropriation. The potential advantage for Democrats is that it’s possible all appropriations for 11 of 12 bills will be negotiated which allows for program funding increases or decreases. A CR would merely extend flat funding without any shifting of funds.
The two sides are continuing to negotiate. One potential problem are the various “riders” some Republicans are attempting to attach to different appropriations bills. These riders could limit the ability of the President on some of his key priorities. For example one target by Republicans is to impose restrictions on the new school lunch nutrition standards. Funding for the government runs out Thursday and according to House rules a final bill will have to be posted by the House by Tuesday night to provide three days of review.
If Boehner can’t get enough Republican support he would need Democrats. If he can’t get that we could end up with a shutdown, a CR of a few months, a CR that covers the entire year at current funding levels, or some sort of cromnibus that funds all but Homeland Security and perhaps one or two other controversial spending areas such as HHS.