House passes stopgap bill to avoid shutdown

By Tony Bertuca  
September 19, 2019 at 3:43 PM

The House voted 301-123 today to pass a stopgap continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded through Nov. 21. The measure now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it next week.

Federal funding is scheduled to expire on midnight Sept. 30 and lawmakers said the additional time provided by the CR will give Democrats and Republicans a chance to reach consensus on spending bills.

"While the House did its work and passed 12 appropriations bills through committee and 10 off the floor, the Senate appropriations process is far behind," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement.

"Because of this delay, we must pass a continuing resolution to avoid another government shutdown like the one that started late last year, which caused real harm to our economy and to hardworking Americans," she continued.

The Senate appropriations process is stalled because of partisan disagreements over funding President Trump's southern border wall.

Lowey noted the House's CR is "clean" and avoids "controversial policy provisions" that could hurt its chances for passage.

The CR, for example, does not allow the Trump administration to begin building a portion of the southern border wall outside the Rio Grande Valley.

The stopgap measures come despite the passage several months ago of a broader bipartisan budget agreement that set defense and non-defense spending levels for the next two years.

Some Republicans voted to support the CR, namely Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee.

"It is unfortunate that we are in this situation and have to pass this CR to keep the government open, but we cannot afford an unnecessary and costly shutdown," she said. "I would much rather be here today in support of full appropriations bills. But I have confidence that, with more time, we will be able to come together to pass full-year appropriations bills that the president can sign into law."

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX), however, voted against the CR on the grounds it hamstrings the Pentagon.

Under a CR, the Pentagon’s budget is locked at previous-year levels and is prohibited from spending money on new programs or ramping up production of existing weapon systems.

"We cannot ask the troops once again to pay for Congress' inability to get our work done, or hold them hostage to either party’s partisan desires," Thornberry said.

A statement from Thornberry's office referenced a Congressional Research Service report that says DOD has started the fiscal year under a CR for 13 of the past 18 years and every year since FY-10, excluding FY-19.

Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a press conference today the Defense Department hopes the government will not end up in an "extended" CR.

"An extended continuing resolution would hinder the momentum of the readiness and modernization gains the department has achieved in the past two years," he said.