GOP Leaders Throw Down Gauntlet Against Conservatives On Spending Bill

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Hours after the Senate gaveled in from its seven-week recess, one Republican leader was already laying the groundwork for passing a three-month stopgap spending bill that would get the Senate back on the campaign trail and out of Washington sooner than later.

There is only one problem, some conservatives in the House of Representatives may fight tooth and nail against it.

The inability of the GOP-controlled House and Senate to pass the suite of appropriations bills to fund the government because of deep party divisions is one of the great ironies of this Congress. Riders and disagreements within his own conference had kept House Speaker Paul Ryan from being able to even pass a budget in the House, delaying the appropriations process. In the Senate, disagreements on Zika funding have poisoned the well and halted the funding process.

During a gaggle with reporters Tuesday, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that he thought the Senate would pass a continuing resolution into December as a way to keep the government funded through the election and avoid any politically poisonous shutdown. Then, lawmakers could return in December to hash out the rest of the appropriations bill (which is unlikely) or at the very least roll them all into one big omnibus bill to appropriate spending through the next fiscal year.

“Our intention is to move a bill that takes us through after the election and into December sometime,” Thune said.

Thune’s comments echoed that of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy who told reporters in a pen and pad Tuesday that he thought passing a CR through December made the most sense.

“I would like to see us get all of our approps work done,” McCarthy said, according to a report from Roll Call. “If we were into December that would still give us the time to maybe get the rest of the approps stuff finished with legislation.”

Leadership’s hints that it will pass a three-month CR could set up fireworks between Republican leaders and the House Freedom Caucus, which has already slow rolled the appropriations process in the House and kept Republican leaders from passing their appropriations bills on time. The House Republican conference will meet Wednesday morning to further discuss the issue.

House Freedom Caucus members have said they would prefer a CR to stretch until March when they could perhaps have more leverage with a new president. Democrats, however, have already said they won’t support a CR that stretches into 2017 and could force Hillary Clinton to use precious political capital to negotiate a fairly routine spending bill.

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