U.S. House unveils new stop-gap funding bill to avert shutdown

Politics Reuters

(AP)

Republicans in the U.S. Congress on Thursday advanced legislation to keep the federal government operating past Friday when funding expires, adding some “emergency” money for the military in a bid to gain the support of conservatives in the House of Representatives.

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House Republican leaders unveiled a new version of a bill they hope to pass before Friday’s midnight deadline and keep federal agencies humming along at current funding levels through Jan. 19, averting a shutdown that would create political havoc in Washington.

But as of early on Thursday, it was unclear whether House Speaker Paul Ryan had secured enough votes for passage. Any measure approved by the House would then have to be considered by the Senate.

Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, described a paralyzed Congress during early-morning testimony to a House committee.

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“You have 36 hours to keep the government open,” he said. “We don’t have the votes to keep the government open. We don’t have the votes to shut it down.”

The House also was aiming to approve an $81 billion disaster aid bill to help Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and several states recover from this year’s hurricanes and wildfires.

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The House bill, released online by the House Rules Committee, calls for an additional $4.7 billion for the Department of Defense to be used for missile defense and ship repair.

Many House Republicans were pushing for a much more significant increase in military funding, despite staunch opposition in the Senate, which wants to leave that fight for early next year.

Republican Representative Chris Collins told reporters late on Wednesday, “The defense hawks want monies ... that unfortunately the Senate’s not in a position to give them.”

The House bill includes $2.85 billion to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program through March and funding for community health centers and the Indian Health Service.

Additionally, the plan includes a 30-day extension of the National Security Agency’s expiring internet surveillance program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Other provisions address funding for veterans and the U.S Coast Guard, according to the measure. A U.S. House aide also said the plan would address flood insurance.

Most government programs would be temporarily extended for a month at fiscal 2017 levels. Fiscal 2018 began last Oct. 1 but Congress has failed to approve any of the regular funding bills for this year and instead has kept agencies running on a temporary basis.