Late last night (about 11:40pm) House Republicans introduced a $915 billion spending bill in a power play that would keep the government in operation beyond the weekend. The maneuver comes as a response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt, in conjunction with the White House, to put off movement on nine unfinished 2012 appropriations bills until Congress has agreed upon a separate package to extend a payroll tax break and jobless benefits.
Senate leaders fear, with good reason, that the House will simply pass its version of key measures and adjourn for the year, leaving the Senate a take-it-or-leave it choice.
The White House has asked Congress to pass a stop-gap spending bill to provide more time to work out a compromise on some controversial provisions included in the spending package, but Republicans have not indicated they would advance such a bill.
Despite some controversial provisions, however, including those on travel to Cuba, the measure is understood to be relatively close to the expected conference agreement.
“We’ve got an agreement between appropriators in the House and the Senate – Democrats and Republicans – on a bipartisan bill to fund our government. We believe that the responsible thing to do is to move this,” said House Speaker John Boehner.
The defense bill advanced by House Republicans would provide $518.1 billion for the Pentagon base budget, an increase of $5.1 billion over fiscal year 2011 (fy11) and a reduction of $20.8 billion below the President’s request. Senate Appropriations Committee-approved language would provide $513 billion, a number achieved largely through the shifting of funds from the base account to the war account.
In addition, the bill would provide $115.1 billion for ongoing war operations largely in Afghanistan, $2.8 billion below the President’s request and $43 billion below fy11 appropriations. The Senate Appropriations Committee would fund the wars at $117.5 billion.
A final agreement is expected in the coming days.