WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Democrat said Thursday that he and President Barack Obama will not approve a stopgap spending bill if it kicks Washington’s unfinished budget business into next year, as some tea party conservatives are demanding.
The message from Harry Reid, in a conference call with reporters, is in line with the private plans of House and Senate GOP leaders. For them, a short-term spending bill, required to prevent a government shutdown, is the main order of business in September’s pre-election congressional session, along with paying for the government’s battle against the Zika virus.
The stopgap bill would buy time for Washington sort out legislation funding the annual operating budgets of federal agencies.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had hoped to get the budget process back on track and avoid a catch-all omnibus spending bill, as has happened in the past several years. A Ryan spokesman said the speaker told Republicans in a conference call last week there won’t be any such spending bill this year, and the unfinished business could carry over into the next administration.
Conservatives have revolted over these year-end bills, which often include unrelated measures. And to get Obama’s signature, those bills have been stripped of agenda items earlier sought by Republicans.
But efforts to pass the 12 regular spending bills separately have so far fizzled as the two parties have gridlocked over policy provisions.
Conservative groups have pushed to kick the spending bill into the next Congress, which will take office in late January.
“Lawmakers must ensure the length of the funding measure does not necessitate a postelection session of Congress,” said Dan Holler of Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy group, in a statement this week. “It is unfair to the American people to allow unaccountable politicians to make consequential decisions in a lame-duck session.”
Reid. D-Nev., said his party won’t accept that.
“We are not doing anything into next year and every Republican should be aware of that right now,” he said.
Reid also pressed for an end to an impasse over emergency money for Zika.
Senators returning to work Tuesday will first revisit battles over Zika and a GOP drive for increases in defense spending.