On Sept. 22, after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a 20-week abortion ban and the fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved forward on lining up procedural votes for Sept. 24 on a short-term continuing resolution (CR). The vote will occur the same day Pope Francis will speak to a joint session of Congress.
The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote on an amendment that contains the text of the 10-week CR, which includes language defunding Planned Parenthood unless the group certifies it will not perform or fund abortions, redirecting the approximately $235 million in mandatory funding to community health centers.
Leader McConnell began the procedural maneuvering to use the shell of the Iran disapproval bill (H.J.Res. 61) as a vehicle for the must-pass CR, this technique allows the Senate to consider the spending measure before the House.
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of the CR on Sept. 22 which will provide funding at an annual rate of $1.017 trillion, mirroring the topline discretionary spending limit established by the Budget Control Act for fiscal year 2016. The resolution, introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), would fund the government until Dec. 11, 2015 giving congressional leaders time to negotiate a year-end budget deal with President Barack Obama.
Specifically, the CR keeps most federal programs operating at their current levels but includes $700 million in additional emergency funding to fight Western wildfires. The CR would also fund war operations at a rate of $74.76 billion, roughly equal to fiscal 2015 levels. The spending bill would also extend expiring authorizations for the Federal Aviation Administration, the E-Verify program and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
It is expected that Senate Democrats will filibuster the CR funding measure because of the Planned Parenthood rider, setting up votes on a so-called “clean” continuing resolution next week, and sending it to the House ahead of the Sept. 30 funding expiration date.
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are expected to meet Thursday after Pope Francis’s address to Congress, to discuss the next steps on government funding. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his colleagues will have to determine whether to wait for the Senate to pass its government funding bill—which is almost certain to be free of riders to defund Planned Parenthood. Or alternatively, the House can pass its own CR to keep the government open and strip the women's health group of its federal funding, although the Senate cannot clear a funding measure that strips out money for Planned Parenthood.
House Republican leaders have shifted their focus to budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority for passage in the Senate. They believe that measure would make it to President Barack Obama's desk.