December 08, 2017
If federal workers were hoping for an early start to Christmas vacation, they're out of luck! Thanks to yesterday's continuing resolution, no one's turning off the government's lights any time soon. For all of the Democrats' big talk, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and company backed down long enough to let the GOP pass a two-week budget patch -- keeping a government shutdown at bay at least until December 22.
Up until Thursday morning, Pelosi had been adamant that Democrats would block any short-term budget extensions. "No" was her blunt answer to questions of whether the party would support a continuing resolution (CR). That all changed after a trek to the White House, where she, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed to have a surprisingly cordial meeting with Donald Trump that softened the Democrats' stance. "Well, we hope we can come to an agreement," Schumer told reporters. "Funding the government is extremely important, helping our soldiers is very important, and helping average citizens is very important. So we're here in the spirit of: let's get it done."
The group vented on some of the policy hotspots holding up negotiations -- the military's budget, for one, the reauthorization of a children's health program, disaster relief for the hurricane-stricken states, and the Left's push for blanket protections for kids brought to America illegally. Although they didn't seem to strike any grand bargains ("Nothing specific has been agreed to," Pelosi said later), both sides said the meeting was productive. Productive enough, it turns out, to get a short-term budget through the congressional pipeline 235-193 and 81-14 right afterward.
Of course, Democrats weren't the only ones opposed to the funding bridge. Some of our conservative friends were anything but happy with the timeline. "I want to avoid a headline that says President Trump's administration just passes the highest spending levels in U.S. history," Congressman and House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) explained. "There will be zero support on numbers that are too high, regardless of anybody's position on that." He's referring to the last several years, when Congress has waited until the last minute to pass a full slate of spending bills. Squeezed for time, they pass trillion-dollar appropriations packages that are longer than any Christmas list -- and significantly more expensive.
Republicans had hoped to get the routine governing back on track, passing the 12 spending bills on a regular schedule. But that goal went out the window when neither party could agree on how much the government should spend this year. Defense hawks have been especially sensitive to the process, worrying that the military is getting short-shrifted by these temporary extensions. In some cases, it's putting the brakes on critical supplies and equipment orders that commanders have been begging for. "For example," the Washington Examiner points out, "America's long-running wars have depleted the stockpiles of bombs and missiles used to battle the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. The new budget includes money to ramp up production of high-demand weapons to replenish the inventory, but as long as spending is frozen at last year's levels, that initiative cannot begin."
For some conservatives, like Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Nebr.), that was enough reason to vote no. For others, like Meadows and Republican Study Committee Chair Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who ultimately lent their support to the CR, the extra two weeks will be spent making sure that the House's hard work on at least eight spending bills aren't wasted. After all, conservatives would point out, Ryan's chamber made huge strides on values issues that need to be addressed in whatever larger package Congress approves late this month, including some priorities that FRC aggressively worked on:
- Conscience protections for pro-life health care entities that are forced to cover abortion in their plans;
- A funding ban on Planned Parenthood and one on any fetal tissue research from aborted babies;
- A reversal of D.C.'s assisted suicide policy;
- Tighter congressional control over the D.C. budget to stop taxpayer-funded abortions and assisted suicides;
- A ban on taxpayer-funded abortions for detainees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency;
- Elimination of both the Title X "family planning" program ($286 billion) and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program ($110 million) which both subsidize liberal sex education efforts and Planned Parenthood;
- Cuts to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) that supports China's coercive abortion policy; and,
- A $20 million boost in sexual risk avoidance (abstinence) funding.
It will be up to the GOP Congress to secure these victories when they revisit government funding in two weeks. Contact your leaders and urge them to make these pro-life goals a Christmas reality!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.