The House on Thursday approved the first of 12 government spending bills lawmakers are looking to pass by the end of September as they prepare to set off a day early for their August recess. But they punted another spending bill leaders had hoped to approve this week after it hit a roadblock, setting up an even more frenzied post-recess period to fund the government before the end of the fiscal year – or risk a government shutdown.
In a 219-211 vote, the House approved the bill, which funds military construction, veterans’ affairs and related agencies, along with employing some social policies, like restricting funding for abortion for veterans, which Democrats oppose.
Republicans celebrated the bill for reducing overall spending, while still enabling them to “honor our commitment to our veterans.”
But Democrats argued that it falls short, while backtracking on promises to veterans.“This bill cuts funding for critical military construction by over $1.5 million,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee said. “It is built on a house of cards that will crumble as this body and the American people come to realize the full scope of cuts the majority is pursuing.”Indeed, the White House vowed earlier this week to veto the legislation, which falls well below the funding levels agreed to in the debt ceiling fight – a move Republican appropriators agreed to make under pressure from members of the conference’s right flank who were unsatisfied with the deal.“House Republicans had an opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process, but instead, with just over two months before the end of the fiscal year, are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the FRA agreement and endanger critical services for the American people,” the White House said in a statement.
Meanwhile, progress on another appropriations bill that House leadership was hoping to push through this week stalled, as an abortion provision likewise became an issue, threatening to alienate even some moderate Republicans looking to hold on to seats in swing districts.The provision of the Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration spending bill would do away with FDA guidance that allows abortion pills to be distributed at pharmacies and through the mail. And although House leaders hoped they would leave town with both the military and agriculture spending bill being passed, the latter never made it to the floor.
At the same time, Senate appropriators finished advancing all 12 spending bills on Thursday, as the two chambers move forward with their own versions of the legislation. But the path toward getting the bills passed – and reconciling the differences between the two chambers – will not be an easy one. And with Congress about to embark on its August recess, time is limited before the end of the fiscal year deadline.Upon their September return, lawmakers will have around a dozen legislative days to pass all of the spending bills, or risk a government shutdown, while facing 1% cuts to defense and nondefense spending across the board, as a condition of the debt ceiling fight meant to incentivize progress. Whether they’re able to make the lift, which hasn’t been accomplished on time in decades, remains to be seen.