Updated 7:10 p.m. | House Republicans are continuing on course with a spending strategy expected to fail in the Senate as they huddled Wednesday to discuss other pressing matters that might ride on the must-pass measure.
GOP leaders signaled an intention to move forward with a plan to pass a spending bill next week that would fully fund defense appropriations through the end of the fiscal year above the sequestration cap and use a continuing resolution to extend current funding for remaining agencies until Jan. 19, several members said after the meeting.
That plan was affirmed as the House Appropriations Committee filed that bill hours after the conference meeting. The decision comes despite a warning shot from Senate Democrats that they have enough votes to block such a measure in their chamber. The current continuing resolution keeping the government open expires Dec. 22.
The defense CR includes the House-passed measure providing five years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Possible attachments that have yet to be finalized, members said, are the disaster supplemental and reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Many remained hopeful the disaster supplemental would be finalized in time to ride on the spending bill, but some expressed concern about FISA being added.
“If you throw FISA in there, I think it blows it up, at least in its current form,” Rep. Scott Perry said of a measure reported out of the House Intelligence Committee.
“I want to make sure that the powers that be are not using the program to spy on Americans without a warrant,” the Pennsylvania Republican added. “You can’t be violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights. You want to spy on terrorists overseas, that’s great. It can’t include Americans.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said he believes the defense/CR combo is still what the GOP conference wants to pursue but said there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding attachments and how the Senate would react to the package.
“As productive as the other two meetings were, this was just blah,” the North Carolina Republican said, referring to previous GOP conference meetings where they discussed the spending plan. Wednesday’s meeting provided “a lot more questions than answers,” he said.
Rep. Charlie Dent, an appropriator and co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, said it’s unclear what the Senate will do but they definitely won’t “eat” whatever the House sends them.
“We know they’re going to send something back, whatever that is,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “Leadership just wants some flexibility to deal with these tactical matters.”
Tactically, some Republicans have been pushing for the House to pass the defense/CR after the tax bill and just leave for Christmas break in an attempt to jam the Senate. That’s among the strategic decisions that have yet to be made.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that the Senate is usually better at jamming the House than the House jamming the Senate,” Dent said.
House Republicans said they’ve started discussing what they would do if the Senate rejects their measure but declined to provide details.
As is often the case with these GOP conference meetings frustration with the Senate was discussed.
“The Senate has been rolling us forever ... At some point you’ve got to run on the Republican platform,” Virginia Rep. Dave Brat said. “We need to just firm up what are our red lines with the Senate.”