House Passes Stopgap Funding Bill 09/23 06:07
In a sweeping bipartisan vote that takes a government shutdown off the
table, the House passed a temporary government-wide funding bill Tuesday night,
shortly after President Donald Trump prevailed in a behind-the-scenes fight
over his farm bailout.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a sweeping bipartisan vote that takes a government
shutdown off the table, the House passed a temporary government-wide funding
bill Tuesday night, shortly after President Donald Trump prevailed in a
behind-the-scenes fight over his farm bailout.
The stopgap measure will keep federal agencies fully up and running into
December, giving lame-duck lawmakers time to digest the election and decide
whether to pass the annual government funding bills by then or kick them to the
next administration. The budget year ends Sept. 30.
The 359-57 vote came after considerable behind-the-scenes battling over
proposed add-ons. The final agreement gives the administration continued
immediate authority to dole out Agriculture Department subsidies in the run-up
to Election Day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., retreated from an
initial draft that sparked a furor with Republicans and farm-state Democrats,
who said she was interfering with the routine implementation of the rural
safety net as low crop prices and Trump's own tariffs slam farm country.
"It's a big deal. This is cash flow to mom and pop businesses all over rural
America," said Texas Rep. Michael Conaway, top Republican on the House
Agriculture Committee. "They get them every year in October. They come like
In talks Tuesday, Pelosi restored a farm aid funding patch sought by the
administration, which has sparked the ire of Democrats who said it plays
political favorites as it gives out bailout money to farmers and ranchers.
In return, Pelosi won COVID-related food aid for the poor, including an
extension of a higher food benefit for families whose children are unable to
receive free or reduced lunches because schools are closed over the
coronavirus. Another add-on would permit states to remove hurdles to food
stamps and nutrition aid to low-income mothers that are more difficult to clear
during the pandemic.
The deal permitted the measure to speed through the House after a swift
debate that should ensure smooth sailing in the GOP-held Senate before next
Wednesday's deadline. There's no appetite on either side for a government
On Monday, Democrats released a version of the stopgap measure that did not
contain the farm bailout provision, enraging Republicans and putting passage of
the measure in doubt. It became apparent that Pelosi did not have the votes to
pass it --- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed it as a
"rough draft" --- and negotiations continued.
Democrats complain that the Trump administration has favored southern states
such as Georgia --- a key swing state and home of Agriculture Secretary Sonny
Perdue --- and larger producers in distributing bailout funds. Farmers are
suffering from low commodity prices and the effects of higher tariffs imposed
by Trump. Trump announced a new $13 billion allotment of bailout funding at a
political rally in Wisconsin last week.
The administration's handling of farm subsidies had angered Sen. Debbie
Stabenow of Michigan, the powerful top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.
She said that the Agriculture Department didn't need the special financing
provision that sparked the furor and that the money would come in November at
the latest anyway. But the financial fix had been passed before, and other
Democrats, including endangered House incumbents in states like Iowa and
Minnesota, pressed for it.
"Now is not the time to be playing politics with aid to farmers or the
assistance needed to save our families and local economies from economic
disaster," said freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa.
The measure is the bare minimum accomplishment for Capitol Hill's powerful
Appropriations committees, who pride themselves on their deal-making abilities
despite gridlock in other corners of Congress. It came after bipartisan
negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief package imploded and appear unlikely to
be rekindled --- especially since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg has upended U.S. politics.
"We need to keep the government open but we also need additional COVID
relief for the American people," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
The legislation --- called a continuing resolution, or CR, in
Washington-speak --- would keep every federal agency running at current funding
levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past an election
that could reshuffle Washington's balance of power.
The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse
on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit
programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs, such as a
provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.
It also finances the possible transition to a new administration if Joe
Biden wins the White House and would stave off an unwelcome COVID-caused
increase in Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient doctor visits.
The underlying stopgap measure deals with the 30% of the federal
government's day-to-day budget that goes to Cabinet agency operations funded by
Congress each year. The annual appropriations process broke down in the Senate
this year and it's unclear but probably unlikely that the $1.3 trillion in
agency spending bills will be enacted this year, even in a post-election lame
duck session, especially if Biden is elected to replace Trump.
In the past, both Democrats and Republicans have sought to use government
funding deadlines and must-past temporary funding bills as leverage to try to
win concessions elsewhere on Washington's agenda. Such efforts invariably fail.
Republicans in 2013 used it in a failed attempt to prevent implementation of
the so-called Obamacare health law, and Senate Democrats returned the favor in
2018 in a futile effort to force debate on permitting immigrants brought into
the country illegally as children to remain in the U.S.
Pelosi studiously avoided such a confrontation this time.