March 6, 2021

House Republicans Push Stopgap Spending Bill

But Republicans acknowledged Thursday that they would miss the deadline they had promised to meet. They began to rush a stopgap spending bill through the House because, they said, Congress could not finish work on any of the 12 regular appropriations bills before the new fiscal year starts in two weeks, on Oct. 1.

The stopgap measure maintains spending for the first 49 days of the fiscal year, through Nov. 18, with a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut from current levels, averting at least for now the threat of a government shutdown. Congressional leaders hope the additional time allows them to finish many of the overdue spending measures.

In addition, the stopgap bill includes $3.65 billion in assistance for people affected by Hurricane Irene, wildfires, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Of this amount, $1 billion would be offset by cutting a loan guarantee program for production of more fuel-efficient cars. Republicans’ insistence on the offset infuriated Democrats, who said no such offset had been required for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

By a vote of 62 to 37, the Senate on Thursday approved a $7 billion disaster relief measure after rejecting Republican efforts to offset the costs. How differences with the House will be resolved is unclear.

Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would have preferred to complete all the bills before Sept. 30. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the Senate is slightly behind schedule.”

Republicans offered several reasons for missing the deadline. They spent the first few months of the year cleaning up after Democrats who had failed to pass any spending bills for 2011. They spent much of July wrangling with President Obama over an increase in the federal debt limit. When the House took up spending bills for 2012, Republicans allowed wide-open debate and hundreds of amendments, including many offered by Republicans who wanted deeper cuts or more restrictions on use of the money by Mr. Obama.

In the past, lawmakers sought seats on the Appropriations Committees so they could secure more money for programs and projects they liked. But the dynamic is entirely different this year, as pet projects have been drastically curtailed and the committees must cut spending for many programs because of constraints imposed by the new debt limit law.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, said that even military spending had come under the knife “in this austere fiscal climate.”

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said, “Real defense cuts are coming.” And they “will require a change in culture at the Defense Department,” which in the past “has just reached for more money as the solution to most problems,” Mr. McCain said.

The House has passed 6 of the 12 regular spending bills for 2012, and a seventh, providing money for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, was on the floor for four days with no final resolution. The House Appropriations Committee has approved three other bills that have not gone to the House floor. The committee has not even released the text of the most contentious bill, which provides money for the Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Senate has passed just one 2012 spending bill, which would provide $144 billion for military construction projects and veterans’ programs. The House has passed a similar bill, but has not responded to the Senate’s request to hash out a compromise in a conference committee.

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved four 2012 bills, including one that would freeze spending for the normal activities of the Defense Department at $513 billion, which is $26 billion less than Mr. Obama requested and $17 billion less than the House approved in July. The bill would cut $695 million from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s largest weapons program.

In addition, the bill would provide $117.6 billion, as requested by Mr. Obama, for “overseas contingency operations” related mainly to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Republicans see the spending bills as a way to clip the wings of federal regulators.

In January, Mr. Obama signed a food safety law that provides broad new authority to the Food and Drug Administration. But one of the 2012 spending bills passed by the House would cut the agency’s budget.

Mr. Obama proposed an increase of more than 50 percent for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission so it could step up regulation of the financial industry and begin policing the over-the-counter derivatives market under the Dodd-Frank Act. The House-passed bill would cut the agency’s current budget by 15 percent, to $172 million.

Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, said the bill “takes cops off the beat at the commission, which provides a critical bulwark against the type of speculation and fraud that led our country into the worst recession since the Depression.”

But Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia and chief author of the bill, said that Democrats “love more regulations,” and that the Dodd-Frank law was “an overreach, more government telling people how to conduct their business.”

Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, said the House version of the E.P.A. spending bill carried “a wish list for special interests — oil companies, cattle grazers, industrial agribusiness, miners and those who wish to pollute our air and water.”

Mr. Rogers said that in its zeal for regulation, the agency had lost touch with “economic reality.”

The House bill would also prevent the National Park Service from carrying out boat inspections on waterways in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska.

“The Park Service in Alaska has become, very frankly, like an occupying army of a free territory,” said Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska, and he pointed to a case in which he said federal agents had manhandled a 70-year-old on a Yukon River cruise.

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