- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2016

With negotiations stalling, Senate Republicans offered a plan Thursday to keep the government open on stopgap funding through Dec. 9 — but Democrats said they’ll oppose it, setting up yet another shutdown showdown next week.

“It’s a fair proposal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said as he offered the new spending bill on the chamber floor.

But Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the top Democrat on the spending committee, said it was a GOP-only bill that she would urge her fellow Democrats to block — likely through a filibuster vote on Tuesday. She said she’s still trying to negotiate a few final fights, and until those are settled to her satisfaction, Democrats will object.

“We Democrats cannot vote for that substitute,” she said.

If Democrats do filibuster, it will bring the government ever-closer to another shutdown. Funding runs out at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, and without a new bill, non-essential government services will have to end.

Mr. McConnell used parliamentary tactics to block out any Democratic amendments, and said there will be a vote no earlier than Tuesday.

The remaining fights on the bill generally aren’t over how much to spend, but rather over what strings are attached to the spending.

Republicans want new money to combat the Zika virus to be offset by trims elsewhere, insisting that in a $4 trillion government there’s room to pay for a vaccine, diagnostic tests and better ways to kill disease-carrying mosquitos.

Democrats, though, say the mosquito-borne disease is an emergency that shouldn’t take away from other functions.

“We still have not allocated the resources, because the Republicans are insisting there be other cuts in the budget,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said.

Democrats also want to ensure Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider, will have access to Zika money because of the network’s role in providing contraceptives.

The GOP spending bill would ship tens of millions of dollars to Puerto Rico, which has been particularly hard-hit by Zika, and the territorial government is allowed to distribute the money to community health centers without restriction on what organizations can receive it. But the money would still be subject to the Hyde amendment, a long-standing restriction that prevents federal taxpayers’ money from paying for elective abortions.

Mosquitos have infected more than 17,300 people with Zika in Puerto Rico.

Florida has recorded 102 cases of Zika through bug bite, while 3,000 travelers have been infected abroad and come back to the U.S.

Mr. McConnell’s bill provides an additional $37 million over the next 70 days to fund a new law designed to combat a prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic.

The funding level is far short of the hundreds of millions that Democrats had demanded to tackle opioid addiction, however.

Democrats also wanted to see money to help Flint, Michigan, with its lead-tainted water.

Republicans say Flint will receive help in a water resources bill that is wending its way through Congress, though Democrats have insisted on money upfront.

Money isn’t the only holdup.

Democrats wanted to use the bill to change a provision in current law that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from issuing a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending. Republicans said that’s a fight for another time, and shouldn’t be used to force a shutdown.

The White House said blame for the looming shutdown falls on Republicans, who control both houses of Congress but who haven’t been able to pass any of the 12 spending bills required to keep the government open.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans are trying to undermine Mr. Obama with “ideological” amendments designed to curtail the president’s plans.

“The president is not going to be a part of any effort to sign those kinds of ideological riders into law when they are attached to a short-term spending bill,” Mr. Earnest said.

Conservatives who frequently spar with GOP leaders said the bill was a mixed blessing.

They cheered Mr. McConnell’s refusal to change the Export-Import Bank’s operating rules so that it can authorize transactions of $10 million or more without a quorum. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, is blocking a critical nominee to the credit agency’s board, saying it doles our corporate welfare and should die off.

But the bill also left out a provision that would block the administration from turning over the U.S. Commerce Department’s role in controlling internet domain names to a private-sector nonprofit informally known as “ICANN.”

That left Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, “profoundly disappointed,” saying it would give foreign entities more control over the internet. It also bucked GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently said he agreed with Mr. Cruz, his primary-election rival.

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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