For the third time, the Senate was not able to invoke cloture on the FY17 Defense Appropriations bill. The vote failed 55 to 43, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. Two Democrats voted for cloture – Sens. Donnelly (D-IN) and Manchin (D-WV). Senate Democrats voted against cloture as part of a political gambit to keep defense funding in play for leverage in negotiations over domestic discretionary spending.
Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations/Zika Virus Funding
Also for the third time the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the conference report to the FY17 Military Construction Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which includes emergency funding for the Zika virus. The vote failed 52 to 46 with one Democrat voting for cloture – Sen. Donnelly (D-IN) – and two Republicans voting against cloture – Sens. Lankford (R-OK) and Lee (R-UT). Some Senate Republicans have indicated that they may be open to removing language on Planned Parenthood from the conference report. However, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) is taking a hard stance against including money for Planned Parenthood in legislation to combat the Zika virus. Funding for the Zika virus is now likely to get rolled into a continuing resolution (CR). The conference report to the FY17 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill may also be attached to a CR.
Continuing Resolution (CR)
While there was no action this week on a CR, there was a lot of talk and posturing on the length of a CR and what might be included in it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engaged in talks with the White House this week discussing a CR that would last until December 9. The House Freedom Caucus is targeting the CR as a potential bargaining chip for language stopping the Administration’s Syrian refugee program in return for agreeing to a short-term CR. They have been pushing for a longer-term CR that would push off any final spending decisions until a new President and new Congress take office next year. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) warned Republicans this week against any attempt to attach “ideological riders” to a CR. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said that he is okay with Dec. 9 but would prefer the CR go through Dec. 16, the last day Congress is scheduled to be in session. The House Republican Conference was scheduled to meet this morning to discuss their CR strategy. They may also discuss a strategy of passing multiple small appropriations packages in the lame duck session instead of an all-inclusive omnibus bill. The President has invited Speaker Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Reid to the White House for a Monday afternoon meeting next week for a conversation on a CR.
And as if the CR process wasn’t complicated enough already, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now says that a CR written to FY16 levels would exceed the FY17 spending caps (triggering sequestration). CRs typically extend current funding levels into the new fiscal year. However, if the current funding level is simply extended, it would exceed the FY17 discretionary spending cap by $10B. This is due mainly in part to maneuvers that were used in FY16 including changes in mandatory programs (CHIMPS). CHIMPS are provisions in appropriations bills that reduce or constrain mandatory spending allowing for additional funding for discretionary programs. Closing the gap in an FY17 CR could be done through across-the-board cuts or new changes in mandatory spending. The $10B gap assumes that Congress operates under a CR for the full fiscal year.