- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2019

The House on Thursday passed a stopgap funding bill to avert a potential government shutdown at the end of the month and postpone the budget showdown over President Trump’s border wall until just before Thanksgiving.

Staring at a Sept. 30 funding deadline, lawmakers conceded that their best option was to pass a shorter-term bill and kick bigger battles over issues such as the wall down the road.

The House easily passed the bill, which would keep the government running through Nov. 21, on a 301-123 vote.

Rep. James McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said any measure is going to take bipartisan support, as well as Mr. Trump’s signature, and called on Senate Republicans to get moving.

“So someone over there is going to have to deliver some bad news to Donald Trump — that he is going to have to log off Twitter and actually govern,” Mr. McGovern said. “It may not make for good television, but keeping the government open for business is the most basic responsibility that we have.”

Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, said the package isn’t perfect but it represents a compromise both sides can support.

“I’m hopeful that even in this time of divided government that we can produce bipartisan legislation before Nov. 21st which reflects the priorities of the American people,” he said.

The House legislation also extends the National Flood Insurance Program and the authorization for the Export-Import Bank through Nov. 21, as well as a number of health programs.

One sticking point had been how to address aid to farmers who might be hurting from Mr. Trump’s trade battle with China.

The bill allows for continued aid, but it also requires the administration to report to Congress on the “trade damage” caused by retaliatory tariffs and other factors.

Rep. Michael Conaway, the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, suggested that Democrats shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for pulling back from a “threat to do serious harm to rural America.”

“That’s akin to Texans thanking Santa Anna for making Texas a Republic,” the Texas Republican said. “The good news is the Democrats failed in their effort to use our hard-working farm and ranch families as pawns in their obsessive vendetta against the president.”

Nevertheless, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said it was his understanding that the Republican-controlled Senate intends to pass the bill.

He said there had been talk of extending funding through mid-December, which would give lawmakers more time to work out their differences on next year’s annual funding bills.

“There is no reason in God’s green earth we cannot complete our business on the appropriations process by Nov. 21st,” the Maryland Democrat said. “I urge my friends in the Senate to not squander the extra time this [bill] provides — approximately seven working weeks.”

Across the Capitol, there were some rumblings about bipartisanship Thursday, a day after Senate Democrats had blocked action on a package of House-passed spending bills.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his support for a measure that would add $250 million to help states administer and secure their elections in the run-up to the 2020 elections.

Mr. McConnell, who has been labeled “Moscow Mitch” by Democrats and liberal commentators for, they say, blocking legislation to counter election interference by countries such as Russia, said the amount will bring the allocation for election security to more than $600 million since fiscal 2018.

“It’s a crucial issue,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The Trump administration has made enormous strides to help states secure their elections without giving Washington new power to push the states around.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee included the amendment as part of spending legislation the panel advanced Thursday.

“This problem was not isolated to 2016 and we cannot be complacent now,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the panel. “These funds are critical to our national security.”

Both parties signed off on a two-year budget deal this summer that allows Congress to spend about $320 billion more than what had been allowed under law, but lawmakers still need to pass bills that appropriate those funds for fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1.

Democrats have objected to additional funding for Mr. Trump’s border wall, saying Republicans shouldn’t be going along with the president’s move to invoke emergency powers and transfer about $3.6 billion from Pentagon funds to the wall.

Republicans, though, say the budget deal included restrictions on blocking the president from making transfers and that the wall is vital for border security.

A standoff over border wall funding helped trigger the 35-day shutdown that stretched from December 2018 into January.

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