The Republican controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing appropriations resolution on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 to fund the federal government for 10 weeks into the 2015 fiscal year, lasting past the midterm elections. The bill passed with bipartisan support and a vote of 319 to 108, with 143 Democrats and 176 Republicans supporting the measure, and only 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans opposing the resolution. The new deadline to pass another spending bill is now Dec. 11, 2014.
The stopgap-spending bill will prevent another government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2014, unlike last year’s 16-day government shutdown. The bill adheres to the $1.012 trillion allotted for 2015 as part of the bipartisan budget agreement devised last December 2013 by House budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI and Senate budget committee chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA. Republicans and Democrats agreed to a continuing resolution after failing to pass the requisite 12 fiscal appropriation bills to fund a fiscal year. The Hill noted that the House passed seven bills while the Senate failed to pass any.
A Congressional Quarterly Roll Call report indicated that Republicans had lobbied for a longer continuing resolution to last into March 1, 2015, hoping the midterm elections would bring a Republican controlled House and Senate, and allow the GOP to determine the budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Instead, it will be up to a lame duck Congress returning after the elections to decide the spending bill.
The ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, Nita M. Lowey, D-NY opposed such a extension, saying; “It is my sincere hope that if this CR is enacted, we can use the coming months wisely to craft agreement on all 12 bills by Dec. 11. There is absolutely no reason to punt our responsibilities into the new year and new Congress.”
More newsworthy is the amendment that is attached to the CR, which “authorizes arming of Syrian rebels.” That amendment also passed with a vote of 273 to 156 with 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats supporting the amendment and 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats in opposition.
Although the amendment does not provide any additional funding, it is an element to the new fight against ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. President Obama outlined his plan to “degrade and destroy” the terror organization in his speech to the nation on Wednesday evening, Sept. 10, 2014. In his speech, Obama called on Congress to authorize the arming and training of Syrian rebels, the initiative was well received in Congress with bipartisan support.
The amendment is limited to training only 5,000 Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia. The amendment however, explicitly states that it is not an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA stated on Monday, Sept. 15 that “after November,” there would be an “opportunity” to debate the possibility of authorizing military force according to Roll Call.
The majority of the six-hour House floor debate on the bill centered on arming Syrian rebels with bipartisan arguments for and against the amendment. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA was reluctant on the “war vote,” saying, “It is not pleasant, it’s not easy… It’s hard. But it really is necessary for the House to approve this.” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-MD was forcefully supportive declaring that if ISIS is “left unchecked it will surely threaten us here at home.” In a rare moment of agreement Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH expressed at his House leadership press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 16 that there is “no reason not to do what the president asked us to do.”
President Obama issued a statement afterwards praising the vote and asking the Senate to do the same; “Countries in the region and around the world are coming together to confront ISIL. The United States can make a decisive difference. Today’s House vote is a step towards making that difference, and I urge the Senate to pass this bill without delay.”
The Senate leadership, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV and Mitch McConnell, R-KY have agreed to the deal and bill passed in the House. The Senate will vote on Thursday, Sept. 18 before recessing for the midterm elections campaign where the Senate’s control is uncertain. Commenting on the bill and its amendment on Tuesday, Sept. 16 McConnell expressed; “It’s my intention to support the CR,” McConnell said. “I support what the president’s doing, [but] I’d like to take another look at it a couple months from now and see how it’s working out. And that would give the Congress an opportunity to revisit that issue later this year.” While Reid stated “When that bill passes and comes over here, I’m confident it will pass on a bipartisan vote. I’m glad we’ll fund the government and give the president the tools he needs to combat” ISIS.
The continuing resolution also included $88 million for Ebola virus research, $64 million to speed up veterans’ disability claims, and to investigate further misconduct involving patient care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the bill renewed the Export-Import Bank charter until June 30, 2015 when Conservatives plan to end the charter, by failing to renew it since there are no spending bills for it to couple with for renewal, which is the usual practice.
- Text H.J. Res. 124 – Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015, PDF XML
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.