With four days left before House Republicans head back to their respective districts, Congress faces yet another tight deadline for funding the government and passing anti-ISIS legislation.
House and Senate leaders met with President Obama last week to discuss counterterrorism strategy prior to the president’s speech Wednesday night. Since then, members of Congress have been torn on the right approach for Congressional action. Members attended closed-door intelligence briefings, and the possibility of voting on any concrete legislation before the midterms remained up in the air.
But cautious support to back the president before heading to the campaign trail in September seems to have won out.
The House Rules Committee convened Monday evening to determine the rule for H.J.Res 124, the Continuing Resolution (CR), introduced by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) last week. The bill packages funds for the government at the current rate of $1.012 trillion dollars until December 11, 2014, or until Congress passes FY2015 appropriations bills. The highlights include $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak (which Rogers said in the hearing was an offset cost) and an extension of the Ex-Im Bank through June 2015.
“We have reached the point where a Continuing Resolution is necessary to keep the government functioning and avoid another shutdown,” Chairman Rogers said in a statement. “It is a critical piece of legislation, and my Committee has crafted the bill in a responsible, restrained way that should draw wide support in the House and Senate. This bill is free of controversial riders, maintains current levels, and does not seek to change existing federal policies.”
There are four amendments currently submitted for consideration with the CR, the most important being a Syrian “Train & Equip” provision introduced by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA). This provision authorizes assistance “including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups” for the purpose of defeating ISIS (ISIL) and increasing the national security of the U.S. and its allies. It does not issue an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and does not authorize American boots on the ground, but that could come later. The McKeon amendment also requires Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to report to Congress 15 days prior to the start of training and then every 90 days throughout the operation.
The House is scheduled to consider the CR this week, and debate could start as early as tomorrow. A domestic energy production bill and the Jobs for America Act are also on their legislative schedule for this week.
Congress should be able to pass funding legislation before the October 1st deadline, pending any surprise disaster. Members are expected to head back home after this week through midterm elections.
UPDATE (9:30 p.m. ET): The House Rules Committee reported a structured rule for H.J.Res 124, specifying that McKeon's amendment will be considered separately with six hours hours of debate prior to the vote.