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Border wall, other disputes sidetrack Senate spending work

David Lerman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

"Congress cannot and should not be silent when the power of the purse is undermined in this way," Durbin said. He added that panel Democrats haven't yet decided whether they can support the defense bill at Thursday's scheduled full committee markup. "That depends on what happens between now and the full committee," he said, pointing out a partisan divide remains over the GOP plan for divvying up fiscal 2020 funds among the 12 subcommittees.

"The unfortunate thing is we believe money has been taken out of HHS for the purpose of building the wall. And it's money that is needed in that appropriations bill, so yes, there are genuine concerns here," Durbin said. Murray told reporters Monday that she had concerns about her subcommittee's allocation, known as a 302(b), but would not divulge the topline number.

Shelby acknowledged there was not yet agreement with committee Democrats on the 302(b). "We're not there yet," he said after speaking with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., before the defense subcommittee markup.

Schumer later on Tuesday contended that Republicans were planning to provide $12 billion for the border wall, including the administration's $5 billion Homeland Security request, the $3.6 billion military construction funding transfer and another $3.6 billion to "backfill" the delayed military projects in fiscal 2020.

"That's not going to happen," Schumer said. "That's what's causing all their problems."

Shelby disputed the Democrats' claim that Republicans were planning to take money from the Labor-HHS-Education bill and shift it to Homeland Security, however, saying the allocation for Labor-HHS-Education would increase when compared to the current fiscal year's level. Nonetheless, the Senate panel's top Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said he planned to offer his own set of subcommittee allocations as an amendment Thursday to Shelby's own 302(b)s.

 

With progress at least temporarily thwarted, both sides agree that a continuing resolution to extend current funding levels into the new fiscal year will be needed this month to avoid a shutdown. But the details of such a stopgap have yet to be worked out.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, has told colleagues the House would vote next week on a "clean" continuing resolution, meaning it would be stripped of any funding adjustments or policy provisions. But the Trump administration is pushing for a long list of funding changes, known as "anomalies," that include authorization for border wall construction beyond a portion of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas that is already authorized.

And House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday there is no agreement between the House and Senate on how long a stopgap should last. "We don't know," she said. The House has been planning for the measure to extend at least until late November, a Democratic aide said.

Durbin told reporters he expected the CR ultimately agreed to by both chambers would run through Nov. 22, the last day the Senate is in session before the weeklong Thanksgiving recess. He said even that extension probably wouldn't buy enough time to get all next year's spending bills done.

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