September 19, 2013
Update: On Friday, September 20, the House passed its short-term continuing appropriations resolution, 230-189. Two Democrats voted Aye on the bill, while one Republican voted against the bill. Click here for the full roll call vote.
On Thursday, September 19, the House of Representatives passed a rule to govern debate on a short-term continuing appropriations resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 15. The mostly party-line vote was 230-192. The vote on the measure itself will occur on Friday, but is expected to follow roughly the same voting pattern.
Two components of the House CR have already caused particular controversy in Washington and outcry by Democratic leaders in the House. First, the bill defunds the Affordable Care Act (known colloquially as Obamacare); and second, the bill includes a continuation of the severe, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
House Democrats lodged a passionate campaign against the sequester, calling it a “disgraceful mistake.” Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) reminded Republican leadership that the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers (R-KY), recently stated: “Sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.” During today’s floor debate, Hoyer asked the Deputy Majority Whip and manager of the bill, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), whether he agrees that sequestration is the right way to reduce the deficit. When pressed for an answer, Rep. Cole responded: “It should be repealed.”
Nonetheless, the bill, if passed tomorrow as expected, will then be sent to the Senate, which will almost certainly strip out the Obamacare provision. It remains to be seen how Senate Democrats will respond to the inclusion of sequestration by the House.
In our view, now is the time to modify the bill and end sequestration. It is also the time to insist on a clean CR and remove extraneous policy riders from the funding bill, including provisions to weaken livestock market fairness and biotechnology rules.
In the coming days, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and other Senate leaders will decide how the Senate will proceed on the short term CR and how they will modify the House bill before sending it back to the House next week.
All of the back and forth between the two houses will take place with the clock ticking loudly as the end of the fiscal year on September 30 is just ten days away. Without a short term CR signed into law by then, the government would begin to shut down on October 1.
See our earlier blog post, for more information about how the CR will impact food and agriculture programs in particular. Congress must finalize a CR before October 1 to avoid a government shutdown.