This week in Washington: Nov. 28-Dec. 2

Congress looks to pass continuing resolution and block any final regulatory attempts from President Obama in final weeks of lame duck session.

With government funding set to expire on December 9, Republican leaders announced ahead of their Thanksgiving recess that Congress plans to pass another stop-gap bill, called a continuing resolution, that will fund federal agencies through March 31, rather than an omnibus appropriations bill that would set spending priorities for the first eight months of president-elect Donald Trump’s term.

Congress had previously planned to pass legislation to fund the government through September, which is the end of the 2017 fiscal year.  However, with Trump’s win in the presidential race, House and Senate Republicans decided not to move forward with the 12 individual spending bills that would have set detailed spending priorities for federal agencies in 2017.

Vice president-elect Mike Pence met with Members of Congress to discuss how to proceed with government funding, among addressing other issues. “The new incoming government would like to have a say-so in how spending is allocated,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) told reporters following the meeting. “We’ve got a lot of funding priorities that we would like to have changed relative to the Obama funding priorities.  It’s as simple as that,” Ryan said.

Retiring Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) said the decision was “deeply disappointing.  My preference would be to do our job and work on an omnibus funding bill.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) said that his committee will begin working immediately on legislation to fund the government at current levels through March 31.  “We must continue to keep our federal agencies and programs open for business, while looking towards future progress on these vital spending bills,” Rogers said.

Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Policy Perspectives, said the next hurdle to get over, however, is convincing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) of the wisdom of funding the federal government at current levels through March next year. “McConnell, along with most of the House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, favor hammering together a FY2017 omnibus spending package. Some conservative House members are also still pushing for a series of ‘mini-bus’ sending measures,” Kopperud said.

“A CR extension will also allow Congress to adjourn a week earlier than planned, as well as move to procedurally block any new regulations the Obama White House may crank out during his last weeks in office. It’s expected the Senate will grudgingly agree with the House strategy,’ Kopperud said in his Washington Report on Nov. 21.

Punting the government funding bills until spring means that Congress will be working to craft a new budget deal with Republicans having a smaller majority in the Senate where Democrats could filibuster to block legislation. The new Congress will convene on January 3 and President-Elect Trump will take the oath of office on January 20.

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