House ap­proves first batch of spend­ing bills; sends to Trump.

With more deals on ta­ble, fund­ing process at best rate since 2007

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

The House ap­proved the first batch of 2019 spend­ing bills Thurs­day and shipped the leg­is­la­tion to Pres­i­dent Trump to sign, keep­ing Congress on track for its best an­nual fund­ing process in decades.

Law­mak­ers are de­ter­mined to avoid a shut­down at the end of this month, and vowed this week’s pack­age of three bills on the En­ergy Depart­ment, wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture, vet­er­ans af­fairs, mil­i­tary con­struc­tion and Capi­tol Hill op­er­a­tions will quickly be joined by oth­ers.

In­deed, hours af­ter the House vote ne­go­tia­tors an­nounced they’d fin­ished writ­ing a fi­nal bill to fund the Pen­tagon and La­bor, Ed­u­ca­tion and Health de­part­ments, which to­gether ac­count for the lion’s share of an­nual dis­cre­tionary spend­ing.

The House vote was 377-20 to ap­prove the first pack­age. The Se­nate had ap­proved it Wed­nes­day on a 92-5 vote.

“This rep­re­sents a re­turn to our most ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­ity around here, pass­ing ap­pro­pri­a­tion bills,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said. “This is the first time since 2007 that the House and the Se­nate will send mul­ti­ple ap­pro­pri­a­tion mea­sures to the pres­i­dent’s desk on time.”

But some of Mr. Ryan’s con­ser­va­tive mem­bers say the next pack­ages could be tougher lifts if Repub­li­can pri­or­i­ties con­tinue to get jet­ti­soned dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Se­nate.

Rep. Mark Walker, a lead­ing con­ser­va­tive, said con­ser­va­tive pri­or­i­ties were “shut out across the board” on the three-bill pack­age and that mem­bers could with­hold their votes in the next round if there’s a sim­i­lar re­sult.

“Con­ser­va­tives are look­ing for the con­fer­enced leg­is­la­tion to re­flect con­ser­va­tive pol­icy rid­ers such as the ones in the House bill,” the North Carolina Repub­li­can said.

But Mr. Ryan and his lieu­tenants say there’s plenty for con­ser­va­tives to like in the bills — no­tably a boost in spend­ing for vet­er­ans af­fairs and the mil­i­tary.

Rep. Tom Cole, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can and chair­man of the la­bor, health, and ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing sub­com­mit­tee, said he would have loved to in­clude pol­icy rid­ers that zero out fund­ing for hot­but­ton items like abor­tion providers, but that would have vi­o­lated Se­nate lead­ers’ stated pledge to set those di­vi­sive fights aside to try to stream­line the spend­ing process this year.

“If we want to get the de­fense pack­age done, which I think was prob­a­bly the high­est Repub­li­can pri­or­ity, you had to be will­ing to deal,” Mr. Cole said. “It’s very hard to get a rider if there’s noth­ing to trade with, and there was noth­ing to trade on the other side.”

The next test could come on the de­fense-so­cial ser­vices-ed­u­ca­tion bill.

A third pack­age of bills to cover agri­cul­ture, en­vi­ron­men­tal, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, and trans­porta­tion pro­grams is also in the works.

There would still have to be a short­term stop­gap “con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion” to fund de­part­ments like home­land se­cu­rity that have fallen through the cracks in the cur­rent ne­go­ti­a­tions. That stop­gap bill would last through early De­cem­ber, law­mak­ers said Thurs­day.

Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Shelby said he hopes the de­fense leg­is­la­tion can get a vote in the Se­nate next week. The House is out all week, but re­turns the fi­nal week of the fis­cal year, just ahead of the Sept. 30 fund­ing dead­line.

“We got time,” Mr. Shelby said. “I didn’t say we had a lot of time.”

Con­ser­va­tives said they want to speed up some of the fights, in­clud­ing the bor­der wall fund­ing bat­tle that’s forced lead­ers to punt the home­land se­cu­rity bill into the new fis­cal year.

GOP lead­ers say if Congress can pass nine of 12 an­nual spend­ing bills by the end of the month, that would cover about 90 per­cent of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s dis­cre­tionary bud­get next year.

Democrats, though, warned they have ob­jec­tions to some of the leg­isla­tive lan­guage the GOP wants to in­clude in the agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal pack­age.

“House Repub­li­cans must drop their in­sis­tence on poi­son pill rid­ers that threaten our air and wa­ter and weaken pro­tec­tions for Amer­i­can con­sumers,” said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Demo­crat on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. “Un­til that hap­pens, we will be forced to keep the im­por­tant do­mes­tic pri­or­i­ties in these bills in a hold­ing pat­tern.”

The White House has com­mit­ted to sign the first pack­age of bills, but hasn’t said what it would do on the oth­ers.

Mr. Trump has been itch­ing for a shut­down fight over the bor­der wall. But his threats are de­fused some­what if law­mak­ers can get him to sign the rest of the bills, which would fund most of the gov­ern­ment through next Septem­ber.

Mr. Cole said at­tach­ing the short­term pack­age to the de­fense and la­bor spend­ing should make it more dif­fi­cult for Mr. Trump to veto the broader mea­sure be­cause the con­se­quences would be more dire.

“I would hope the pres­i­dent doesn’t se­ri­ously en­ter­tain a veto,” he said.


Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy (left), House Speaker Paul Ryan (mid­dle), and Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise say there’s plenty for con­ser­va­tives to like in the 2019 spend­ing bills.

“If we want to get the de­fense pack­age done, which I think was prob­a­bly the high­est Repub­li­can pri­or­ity, you had to be will­ing to deal,” Rep. Tom Cole said. “It’s very hard to get a rider if there’s noth­ing to trade with, and there was noth­ing to trade on the other

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