House Republican leaders Tuesday unveiled a temporary government funding bill that includes a short-term extension of a trade-promotion agency that has been targeted by conservative activists, eliminating a key sticking point in the effort to avoid a government shutdown.
The bill would keep the government running on this year’s budget levels from the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, until mid-December, when negotiators would prefer to approve detailed spending plans for the federal agencies through 2015.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill would keep federal agencies open through Dec. 11, would match President Obama’s request for $88 million in funds to help fight the spread of Ebola in Africa, and would provide flexibility to departments working on the U.S.-Mexico border to handle the flood of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the border.
The legislation also includes a measure that extends, until mid-December, a law restricting states from taxing Internet service providers.
The legislation should win approval in the House by Thursday, sending it to the Senate, where it is expected to pass next week. That would avert a repeat of last October’s 17-day shutdown of the federal government, which was caused by Republicans trying to undo the health-care law.
“People want to keep the government running. We don’t want to watch a rerun of the same movie,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior member of the appropriations panel.
The formal introduction of the legislation waited until after Obama and the top four congressional leaders completed an Oval Office meeting regarding international crises, including the looming threat of the Islamic State’s hold on portions of Iraq and Syria. With no formal request for additional war funds expected from that meeting, congressional leaders narrowed down the potential hiccups to passing the government funding bill.
Chief among those had been the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the agency that helps U.S.-based corporations sell goods overseas. Many conservatives, led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), accuse the bank of being a form of corporate welfare that skews the marketplace.
Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that he had been discussing the issue with Hensarling, who had agreed that extending the agency into next year would be a smarter move than engaging in a shutdown fight just ahead of the November elections over a relatively obscure agency that promotes jobs.
“He thinks that a temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order,” Boehner told reporters, a rare instance of the speaker announcing the intentions of one of his committee chairmen.
Hensarling repeatedly denied requests for comment Tuesday. Senior GOP aides in the House and Senate suggested that building in time for the fight next spring and summer would be a smarter play, especially if the Senate flips to Republican control in the midterm elections.
Moderate Republicans, such as Rep. Jim Gerlach (Pa.), who represents the Philadelphia suburbs, said business interests in their districts have asked them to usher through an extension.
“It’s helpful to companies in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Gerlach said Tuesday evening in an interview near the House floor. “I would like to see it extended for as long as possible.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he wanted the House to include additional funding for the border crisis: “I certainly hope there’s something addressing the border issue.”
But Reid signaled that he is deferring to the negotiations between House Republicans, led by Rogers, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.
A small but vocal group of congressional conservatives, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the architect of last fall’s government shutdown strategy, is agitating again for a big legislative fight, this time on an amendment that would deny Obama the ability to issue an executive order expanding immigration rights.
“I think we should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty,” Cruz said at a news conference, flanked by the most conservative lawmakers.
At this stage, according to lawmakers and senior aides in both parties, Cruz does not have near the support he did last fall and the government funding bill would be expected to be signed into law later this month.