Late Tuesday evening, with about 75 hours to spare before the deadline on federal government spending runs out at midnight on Friday, December 9, congressional negotiators released the 70-page text of another continuing resolution (CR) that will fund federal government agencies at current years level through April 28, 2017. The CR meets the total $1.07 trillion budget cap imposed by the budget agreement in 2011.
The legislative vehicle for the CR is the FY 2017 Energy-Water appropriations bill, HR 2028. The House Rules Committee is expected to meet mid-afternoon on Wednesday and adopt the rules for floor debate on HR 2028. The House of Representatives will take up the CR on Thursday. The US Senate will take up the measure on Friday.
Some of the provisions in the CR include:
- The bill contains $5.8 billion for the Department of Defense and $4.3 billion for the State Department/USAID to support military and diplomatic efforts to fight ISIS and terror around the globe,
- $4.1 billion in disaster relief funding to address damages cause by recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew, floods, drought, and other severe weather events.
- $170 million to address the infrastructure and health needs of those communities affected by contaminated drinking water (Flint, MI). This includes grants for infrastructure improvements, lead poisoning prevention care for mothers and children, and a lead exposure registry. This funding is fully offset.
- $872 million in funding for the House-passed “21st Century Cures Act of 2016,” which boosts critical medical research, drug approval, and drug abuse efforts. This includes $20 million for the Food and Drug Administration Innovation account, $352 million for the National Institutes of Health Innovation account, and $500 million for states to respond to the opioid abuse crisis. This funding is fully offset.
- Provisions responding to the downturn in the farm economy that allows USDA to meet the demand for farm loans.
- Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced Tuesday that negotiators on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (expired Sept 30, 2015) were unable to reach a consensus on the legislation that sets policies for the federal school lunch and breakfast programs; the Women, Infants and Children programs; summer meals for low-income children; and after-school meal programs. The measure must be taken up again in the 115th Congress. Congressional appropriators included funding in the CR to continue the program.
Not All Are Happy
A $45 million provision is included in the CR that would use funds normally directed toward clean up and reclamation of abandoned mines to the United Mine Workers Benefit Plan that ensures retired coal workers continue to receive health benefits. West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) are saying its not enough. At this hour no one knows whether one, both will hold up the CR over this provision.
Also included in the CR is language that would help expedite President-elect Trump’s nomination of retired Marine Corps General James Mattis to lead the Department of Defense. Mattis retired from the Military three years ago. The National Security Act of 1947 (PL 80-253) requires military personnel to wait seven year after retirement before re-entering service. The language in the CR would create an exception and Mattis’ nomination could be introduced in the first 30 days of the 115th Congress. Top Democrats including incoming Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) are concerned about changing the nomination procedures.