House GOP to Vote on Spending Plan

 Gabrielle Levy

House Republican leaders were preparing Tuesday to vote on a short-term spending bill that would keep the government funded through March 23 and to attach a full year of Pentagon spending and several billion dollars to replenish the coffers of a community health centers program that saw most of its funding expire in September.

A continuing resolution through March 23, aimed at preventing a government shutdown Friday, would be the fifth continuing resolution to fund the government since the beginning of the fiscal year in October.

The increase in military spending by $30 billion, to $584 billion, was meant to appease defense hawks who have grown restive over the repeated stop-gap funding measures and who have said that increasing numbers of off-battlefield fatalities in the military are largely to blame on the Pentagon's inability to make long-term plans.

But Democrats in the Senate are expected to reject the defense hike without a matching increase in the domestic budget. At least 44 Senate Democrats have already said they would reject a House bill that came over with the additional defense money attached, dooming its prospects and making it more likely that the Senate will vote to pass "clean" bill that only includes the money to fund the government through mid-March.

Complicating the effort to avoid a shutdown is the House's abbreviated work week, with the Democratic conference preparing to depart Washington for its annual policy conference in eastern Maryland on Wednesday.

The House is expected to cast the first vote on the spending bill late Tuesday. If the Senate votes to return a narrower measure on Wednesday or Thursday, it will be up to House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to determine whether to risk angering conservatives in his conference and agree to pass a clean continuing resolution.

Negotiations over a deal to lift caps for both defense and nondefense spending – imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act's sequestration – have been at an impasse for months, tangled with the separate debate over immigration.

Republicans say a spending deal could be done in a moment if Democrats were willing to decouple the issues.

"The only reason we need yet another CR is because Democrats continue to hold a budget agreement hostage over an unrelated issue," said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan. "Our men and women in uniform aren't bargaining chips, and there's no reason for Senate Democrats to keep holding our military hostage for their political ploy."

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