House OKs Funding Extension to Keep Government Open

The U.S. Capitol is mirrored in the Reflecting Pool in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House passed a bill Wednesday to continue funding the government into next week, two days before it was set to shut down amid a standoff over a larger spending deal.   

Introduced Tuesday, the bill known as a continuing resolution is boiler plate legislation that extends funding at current levels and is passed by Congress when lawmakers can’t reach a budget agreement.   

Approved in a 343-67 vote, the stopgap measure kicks the can down the road until Dec. 18.

From the House floor, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said that while he normally would not comment on a continuing resolution, the short-term funding bill was a recognition of failure. He said it was a reminder that Republicans and Democrats had struggled to build communication over an essential congressional function.

“We passed 10 of our 12 appropriations bills on July 26. That was two months before the end of the fiscal year,” Hoyer said. “The Senate unfortunately didn’t pass any of its appropriations bills. It still hasn’t passed any of its appropriations bills. … That has delayed us substantially, not because the House didn’t do its work on time, but because for whatever reasons the Senate didn’t address the appropriations process in a timely fashion.”

Rosa DeLauro, the newly anointed chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said committees are hard at work negotiating provisions for funding the government into 2021. Federal funding played a particularly critical role in supporting American families this year, as the nation confronted the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Americans deserve the certainty of a full year funding and the Congress has a responsibility to the nation to do its job and pass all 12 funding bills before we adjourn,” the Democrat from Connecticut said, referring to the holiday recess that begins at the end of next week.  

DeLauro said the extra week gives lawmakers time to solve disputes over funding limits in additional coronavirus relief legislation. She said the relief is a crucial lifeline for working families and 12 million Americans could lose unemployment aid if a bill is not passed. She also pointed to other benefits set to expire, like protection against evictions.

“This will put working families over the edge and our economy closer to the financial cliff,” DeLauro said.

She added: “People are desperate. They are counting on us.”

Texas Republican Kay Granger spoke in support of a full funding package from the House floor Wednesday. The congresswoman also expressed optimism over the ongoing talks between Republican and Democrat leadership to forward another relief bill to the Senate before the recess.  

“It’s my hope that we can complete both of these important pieces of legislation as soon as possible,” Granger said.

The House also passed a bill Wednesday focused on approving federal research of medical marijuana. The measure comes a week after legislators voted to federally decriminalize cannabis so states can set their own regulations.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, noted the broken nature of cannabis laws nationwide, especially those dealing with researching its effects.

For example, he said, it’s illegal everywhere in the country to drive while under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, yet a test for impairment exists for only one of the substances.

“At a time when there are 4 million registered medical cannabis patients and many more who self-medicate, when there are 91% of Americans supporting medical cannabis, it’s time to change the system,” Blumenauer said. “Our bill will do just that.”

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