House GOP leaders plot to avert shutdown, but may need Democrats

 In Politics

Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan are pictured. | Getty

If more than two dozen of the House GOP’s far-right flank oppose the strategy, House Speaker Paul Ryan would need to lean on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for votes. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

House GOP leaders are forging ahead with a spending strategy that has drawn flak from far-right members, making it increasingly likely they will need help from Democrats to avert a shutdown.

Less than one week before federal funding expires, the chamber’s spending panel released a two-week patch Saturday. A House passage vote is expected midweek, with Senate action to follow.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed to members Friday in a Republican Conference meeting that the House will vote on two separate short-term spending measures, with this first one extending through Dec. 22 and another through January.

Under the newly released bill, certain spending constraints would be temporarily lifted to help states that are running low on money from the Children’s Health Insurance Program after Congress failed to extend funding for the program in September. States could more easily receive leftover cash from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a tide-me-over until the program-specific funding is renewed.

Ahead of the legislation’s unveiling, the Office of Management and Budget held a call Friday warning federal agencies to put contingency plans in place in case Congress fails to extend funding by the deadline, noting that such guidance is routine and doesn’t indicate a greater likelihood of shutdown.

“There is no reason why a lapse in funding needs to occur,” OMB Press Secretary Meghan Burris said in a written statement. “Prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse.”

Enactment of the two-week patch is far from a sure bet, however.

The two-part plan is intended to drum up pressure on Democrats to strike a much-needed budget deal by the time government funding runs out on Dec. 8, GOP aides say. But the unconventional tactic has been met with skepticism from conservatives, who fear leaders will abandon their priorities in a last-minute deal before the holidays.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, warned of an “end-of-year Christmas party of spending with Democrats.”

“The budgeting never goes good when everybody loads up the Christmas tree,” Brat said. “You got to give me one heck of a good argument for a two-week [continuing resolution]. I haven’t heard it yet.”

If more than two dozen Republicans oppose the strategy, Ryan would need to lean on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to deliver Democratic votes. That tradeoff would almost certainly require the GOP to make painful concessions in the spending deal, like bigger boosts for domestic programs.

House GOP leaders explicitly warned during the closed-door meeting Friday that they would need to seek help from Democrats if their own members voted against keeping the government open.

“They said, basically … ‘Hey, if we’ve got the votes, then we do it. If we don’t got the votes, then you got to go do things to get votes from elsewhere outside the conference,’” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) told reporters.

Democrats are so far refusing to commit to helping Republicans pass a spending bill, ticking off a list of long-simmering political issues like protections for Dreamers, or young undocumented immigrants, and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“We have no resolve on CHIP, we have no resolve on the Dreamers, so without any of that resolved, why, why would I vote for an extension?” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told POLITICO. “I’m going to wait and see what we’ve got.”

Pelosi stressed her commitment to higher domestic spending levels, as well as a “Dreamers” deal, in a news conference Thursday. But she also underscored her intention to avoid a public showdown. “We want to keep government open. That’s what we are about,” the minority leader told reporters.

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