Resigned to the strong possibility that the House will need to fund the government through a continuing resolution after this fiscal year, conservatives are warning party leaders of what it would take for them to support such a stopgap measure.
With the much-hyped regular order appropriations process looking stalled—if not finished—before it really started, conservatives say that a funding bill that extends current government spending, as a continuing resolution does, should stretch until next year.
Government funding expires Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The length of the continuing resolution is important to conservatives because they don’t want to have to revisit government funding during the lame duck session of Congress, which is the time after the next president is elected and before he or she takes office.
“I will only vote for a continuing resolution that stretches into next year,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, speaking Thursday before reporters on Capitol Hill.
“Because everything bad happens during the lame duck session, and I just don’t believe that the lame duck session should be where we’re making big decisions about the future of the country,” added Labrador, who is a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “If we can’t do the appropriations as we should, if we can’t get those done, then we need to wait until about March to then start the process again.”
A continuing resolution is a funding method widely loathed, but has proven to be a regular feature of an era of divided Congress.
“Everything bad happens during the lame duck session,” says @Raul_Labrador.
This year appears to be following the same path, even after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had called for the process of funding the government to be different—or normal.
Ryan, when he became speaker in October, said he wanted to open up the legislative process, returning to so-called regular order, where lawmakers could offer up policy riders to attach to spending bills that would be debated and voted on individually.
But things haven’t worked that way.
Republicans first failed to vote on a budget resolution—an aspirational document that would have been a blueprint for the spending bills to follow—due to a disagreement over the spending levels it would have set.
Then, Ryan was forced to go back on his open process promise when the House failed to advance the energy and water spending bill due to a controversial LGBT amendment offered by Democrats.
Fearing that Democrats would continue to offer contentious amendments in an effort to defeat appropriations bills they don’t like, Ryan, with the support of the Freedom Caucus, changed the House rules so that only GOP leaders choose the amendments that get votes.
Yet this strategy hasn’t helped the process go any smoother, and House conservatives are already accusing Republican leaders of blocking their amendments.
“Everything we are doing now with closed rules, and all the disruption on the House floor and bills that come up that haven’t been properly vetted out of committee, is the result of losing regular order,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., told reporters Thursday. “We bargained those away. We are no longer in regular order [and] that’s hugely important.”
While the House and the Senate have each passed three bills, Congress has yet to send any of them to the president’s desk for his signature.
Lawmakers are also facing a short calendar, as the House and Senate are out of session after next week for more than seven weeks due to the national conventions and their normal summer recess.
With that reality, House conservatives argue that the next best thing is to fund the government at current levels—all at once—until a new president assumes office.
“I think we should avoid a lame duck session,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, in the briefing for reporters Thursday. “You’ve got Harry Reid leaving, you’ve got President Obama leaving, and this is a chance to just line up the Christmas tree for all the wants for the future. We need to really to avoid that happening. There’s too many people that would love to make deals to just overwhelm the American public and we do not need that to happen if we are going to salvage this little experiment in democracy.”