Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday pitched House Republicans on a “minibus” of government funding bills as a way to move forward on appropriations as tensions in the conference threaten a government shutdown.
The plan, according to multiple members who emerged from a GOP Conference meeting Wednesday morning, would be to package the regular appropriations bills covering military construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), the Pentagon, and the Department of Homeland Security along with disaster relief funding.
The MilCon-VA bill passed the House before the August recess, and leaders scheduled the Pentagon appropriations bill for floor action this week.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said that the plan is “trying to get the conference to coalesce around something that we can all come to agreement on.”
“We ought to be able to do this posthaste and move in a positive direction. It also sends a signal to the Senate that we’re serious about what we’re doing and we have some solutions,” Womack said.
“A lot of members are very intrigued by the Speaker’s suggestion, and I think it’s the right way to move forward,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said when asked about the minibus proposal.
Punchbowl News first reported McCarthy’s pitch to packaging the bills together.
It is unclear whether House conservatives who have been pushing for lower spending levels would accept the minibus plan or other ways of packaging spending measures.
Those members appeared more open to other options, such as attaching disaster relief just to the Homeland Security appropriations bill another idea that members said was discussed in Wednesday’s closed-door conference meeting.
“The devil’s in the details. Coupling Homeland with disaster relief probably works,” said Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), a member of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), another Freedom Caucus member, said he is still looking for agreement on overall top line spending levels before agreeing to a spending plan.
“I think a lot of my colleagues share that view that we want to see how the entire puzzle fits together,” Good said.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) echoed that sentiment.
“I’ll vote against everything until we get fundamental delivery on the basic promise that was made in January, which is spending cuts in exchange for allowing defense to rise,” Bishop said when asked about McCarthy’s plan to package the several bills together.
The idea of a minibus appears to be in the early stages. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee, said he did not hear the plan to package those bills together but said that attaching disaster relief to the Homeland Security bill was a good idea.
All of the spending bills passed by the House will have to be reconciled with spending bills passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has marked up bills at higher levels than the House.
As the House and Senate continue work on appropriations bills, congressional leaders are also working to craft a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30
“We’re in a difficult spot. We got a big challenge ahead of us. Are we going to be equal to the task?” Womack said.
Updated at 11:45 a.m.