Lawmakers Pass CR Spending Bill

December 14, 2016

With less than an hour to spare, the Senate passed the CR to keep the government funded for a little longer than four months. The final Senate vote count was 63 to 36, after a group of disgruntled Democratic Senators backed away from their threats to block or delay the funding measure because of a dispute over healthcare benefits for retired miners. The CR passed the House on ThursdaOn Dec. 9, the federal government narrowly avoided being forced to shut down from running out of money, thanks to a last-minute Senate vote in favor of a continuing resolution (CR) to further fund federal operations until April 28, 2017.y, Dec. 8 with a 326-96 vote and President Barack Obama signed the bill in the early morning hours on Saturday, Dec. 10.

The bill, now sets up a spending fight next year within President-elect Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office that will test his promise to cut deeply into the federal deficit by eliminating what he calls “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse.”

Senators will have to reach an agreement by late April on spending levels for the rest of fiscal year 2017 while juggling the confirmations of various executive branch nominees and perhaps a Supreme Court nominee. They will also be working on regulatory reform and a budget to pave the way for tax reform. Some Republican Senators, including members of the leadership, had hoped Trump would instead accept a yearlong omnibus spending bill or a yearlong stopgap funding resolution to clear the decks for 2017 for those other priorities. Any deep cuts to social programs pushed by Trump next year, or increases in defense spending not matched by increases in domestic spending, are likely to draw staunch opposition from Democrats.

The four-month funding bill that passed on Dec. 9 was initially expected to sail through the Senate after it won the early support of leaders on both sides of the aisle. Things took a turn, however, when a group of Democrats—Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.)—all facing reelection in 2018 from coal-mining states began voicing loud objections because it included only a four-month extension of health benefits for miners. They wanted to amend the CR to include a yearlong extension of benefits but made little progress. Eventually, they caved and the measure passed.

Additionally, the CR includes $170 million to overhaul the infrastructure of communities with contaminated drinking water, such as Flint, Mich., where lead-tainted water became a national issue earlier this year. It also includes $4.1 billion in disaster relief to rebuild areas inundated by floods caused by Hurricane Matthew and other storms, including parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. More than $870 million in the measure goes to fund the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill designed to spur medical research.

The legislation marked the final major business of the 114th Congress, whereas Congress is now adjourned until Jan. 3, 2017 when the 115th Congress convenes.