Politico

House passes first $67B in funding bills amid bid to bolster government spending


House Democrats passed their first two spending bills Wednesday as the next government shutdown threat looms nine weeks away, an attempt to display unwavering “unity” among the ranks of their slim majority to bolster the party’s negotiating stance.

The more than $67 billion the bills would provide for federal agencies is a sum far higher than Democrats will be able to pass through the Senate, where the majority party will again need the support of at least 10 Republicans to fund the government. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is intent on passing as many of the 12 government funding bills as possible this month, preaching behind closed doors that “unity is our power” as party leaders enter another season of deal-making to keep the government funded.

Democratic leaders spent days trying to whip support for the two bills that passed Wednesday to fund the State Department, foreign aid programs and congressional operations. In the end, the State-Foreign Operations measure passed 217-212, while the Legislative Branch bill passed 215-207.

The House’s proposal for foreign assistance “makes clear” that “America is back,” Pelosi said, noting that the bill would provide over $3 billion to address climate change, including by, for the first time, laying out funding for contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

Despite the show of Democratic harmony, Congress is likely to fail again to pass new spending totals before the next fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Lawmakers are expected to enact another stopgap spending bill come September, considering the Senate is just getting started on its work this summer toward funding the government and party leaders have not agreed on overall totals for defense and non-defense programs. That temporary patch could create a fiscal cliff in December, a familiar pre-holidays pressure point in Washington.

The House also plans to vote later this week on a $600 billion seven-bill funding package, notching passage of a total of nine spending measures. Democratic leaders have yet to build enough support for the three bills that fund the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Justice, with the caucus divided over issues like the Pentagon’s budget, immigration and police funding.

Republicans argued during debate Wednesday that the spending bills are “overfunded” at the expense of the military and a waste of time to deliberate in the absence of a broader bipartisan deal on the breakdown of government funding.

“They will not be taken up by the Senate, and they will not become law,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) complained about the bills. “Given the looming Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, I would just hope that my liberal colleagues across the aisle would work with Republicans to craft a bipartisan appropriations measure that can make it to the president’s desk.”

Floor action on the Legislative Branch and State-Foreign Operations bills was repeatedly delayed Wednesday as Republicans forced multiple procedural votes in protest of a new requirement that House lawmakers and staff don their masks again to mitigate spread of the Delta variant.

“This institution is a sham, and we should adjourn and shut this place down,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said on the floor after calling for a vote to stop House action for the day.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who oversees Legislative Branch funding, stressed that lawmakers are flying in from hotspots throughout the country, endangering the immunocompromised and other at-risk individuals.

“I hate these things. Absolutely terrible having to put these back on,” Ryan said about the face masks. “But we do it because the top doctor asked us to.”

In their Legislative Branch measure, Democrats once again decided to forgo a contentious pay raise for lawmakers — a cost-of-living bump that members of Congress have not received in more than a decade. The bill also directs the Architect of the Capitol to come up with a plaque that honors law enforcement officers who defended the building during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

House lawmakers adopted an amendment to the Legislative Branch bill to increase funding by more than $3.5 million to remove accessibility barriers throughout the more than 200-year-old Capitol building.

The House rejected a proposal by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) that would have struck language allowing certain immigrants to work in Congress if they meet the requirements of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Lawmakers also killed another Grothman amendment that would have nixed $1.5 million for the House office tasked with promoting diversity and inclusion.

The State-Foreign Operations measure proposes an increase of more than 12 percent over current funding, including more than $18 billion for the State Department and $1.8 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The bill does not include longtime bans on foreign aid being used to support abortion providers — an omission Republicans call a “fatal flaw” that will stand in the way of funding the government this year.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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