Congress to vote on stopgap bill running through April 28

Source: George Cahlink, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Congress is on track to pass stopgap spending legislation this week that will avoid a government shutdown Friday by extending federal funding through April 28, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said last night.

The text of the stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), is expected to be released today. The House would pass the bill by Thursday with the Senate expected to act on it by no later than Friday. Both chambers are then due to adjourn the 114th Congress.

“We are trying to keep it as clean as we can, so there are some things we have to do,” said Rogers (R-Ky.), noting than the CR will force some adjustments in funding as well as policy riders.

Rogers declined to discuss specifics about those add-ons, noting the bill would be out shortly. He did say the measure is likely to include some disaster aid for communities recently hard hit by flooding and other natural disasters.

The House had wanted to extend funding until March 31 and then finalize fiscal 2017 spending with the new Trump administration.

The Senate, on the other hand, wanted a CR into May or later because the first part of the year will be busy dealing with a slew of nominees.

The emerging deal seems to split that difference.

Congress has been forced to pass a series of stopgaps because it only passed one of its 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal 2017.

Flint, Ex-Im Bank riders in play

A range of other provisions are in play for the CR, including aid for Flint, Mich., to address its lead water crisis and efforts to help the Export-Import Bank of the United States resume full operations.

The House and Senate today released a water projects bill that authorized $170 million in aid for Flint (see related story), but that money will now need to be appropriated in a CR. Aides on both sides of the aisle said they expect those dollars to make it into the stopgap.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior appropriator, said he’s pushing to include language that would revise the rules to allow the Export-Import Bank to approve larger loans and other financing deals. The bank cannot currently approve any agreements over $10 million because its five-member board lacks a three-person quorum with nominees stalled in the Senate.

Graham confirmed his proposal would allow the credit financing agency to approve deals over $10 million with its current two-member board.

But Senate Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a leading critic of the bank who has refused to move the nominees, said he was hopeful Senate GOP leaders would block any bid to revive the bank and noted President-elect Donald Trump is not a fan of it.

He added most Senate Republicans had opposed last year’s effort to reauthorize the bank, a move that ultimately passed with Democratic support but has had limited impact with Shelby holding up the nominees.

“We ought to either look at ways to abolish the Ex-Im Bank period or reform it,” said Shelby, a senior appropriator who said he’d oppose the CR if the bank provision were included.

Nuclear energy equipment manufacturers are among the most affected by the bank’s limited operations. They are part of some of Ex-Im’s largest financing arrangements with a global market for their products estimated at $74 billion.