Vote Delayed on Funding the GovernmentSeptember 21, 2016
Senate negotiators have been busy trying to finalize a deal to fund the government and allow lawmakers to leave town and get back on the campaign trail. Initially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intended to hold a procedural vote on Sept. 19, which would fund the federal government and agencies through Dec. 9, however, it was postponed until Sept. 20. Ultimately, a deal could not be reached, forcing Leader McConnell to move the vote into the week of Sept. 26.
A major point of contention that now appears to have been resolved is language that would provide funding to fight the Zika virus by allowing Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Puerto Rico to access federal grants—specifically in the continuing resolution (CR) the clinic money will come through a $95 million social services block grant in a broader $1.1 billion Zika package.
Despite the breakthrough on emergency funding for the mosquito-borne disease, several other issues remain in the continuing negotiations. For instance, funding for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues to be in the mix. Democrats on both sides of the Capitol are fighting for Flint funds to be included in the government spending package, in particular the aid package language that was included in a Senate water resources bill. Meanwhile, Republicans want additional funding for flood-stricken Louisiana in the short-term spending measure.
Other areas where negotiators are still finalizing details includes language blocking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring public companies to report their political activities. Republicans included a rider in the 2015 year-end spending package that stopped the SEC from forcing companies to reveal their political spending. Democrats want the provision to expire while Republicans want to extend it.
Another issue that remains up in the air is a potential delay in the Obama administration’s proposal to give the U.S. government’s authority over the internet domain system to an international body on Oct. 1—a move that is being led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and a host of other Republican lawmakers.
Of significance to NSBA and its international trade arm—the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA)—is the push by Democrats to include language restoring the ability for the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) to approve transactions exceeding $10 million even though only two seats on its five-person board are filled. Despite support from some Senate Republicans, the provision is unlikely to be included in the CR because several believe that including the Ex-Im rider would make it hard to pass the overall CR in the House.
SBEA signed onto a coalition letter urging both House and Senate leadership to adopt language included in identical Foreign Operations appropriations bills that would temporarily modify Ex-Im’s quorum requirement so that it could review transactions over $10 million. The letter urged lawmakers to include this language in the CR.
Finally, Leader McConnell has said the Senate will also consider an expected veto override of legislation that allows the family members of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts. Although the House and Senate have both approved the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, President Barack Obama is expected to veto the legislation by Sept. 23 — the deadline for it to take action.
Majority Leader McConnell is eager to finalize the funding deal so his colleagues can return home to campaign for re-election, particularly since control of the Senate hangs in the balance. Overall, Republicans have to defend 24 seats, while Democrats only have to protect 10. Democrats will only need to gain four seats and hold the White House in order to win control of the Senate. The CR is the last major piece of business that needs to be finished before Congress can recess.