Issue: H.R. 8337, Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2021. Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass (2/3 vote required).
Result: Passed in House, 359 to 57, 1 present, 14 not voting. Passed in Senate (Senate Vote 197, 9-30-20). Became Public Law (signed by the President, 10-1-20). GOP and Democrats scored.
Freedom First Society: Fiscal year 2020 ends on September 30th. Fiscal year 2020 appropriations included massive unconstitutional programs and spending. No representative, respecting his oath to obey the Constitution, should vote to extend such spending, unless a serious plan to begin rolling back such spending was imminent (which it was not).
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H.R. 8337 would extend Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations through December 11. After the November national elections, responsibility will fall on a lame-duck Congress to tackle FY 2021 appropriations.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Congressional Research Services Summary:
Introduced in House (09/22/2020)
Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act
This bill provides continuing FY2021 appropriations to federal agencies through December 11, 2020, and extends several programs.
It is known as a continuing resolution (CR) and prevents a government shutdown that would otherwise occur if the FY2021 appropriations bills have not been enacted when FY2021 begins on October 1, 2020.
The CR funds most programs and activities at the FY2020 levels with several exceptions that provide funding flexibility and additional appropriations to various programs.
In addition, the bill extends several authorities and programs, including
- surface transportation programs;
- public health, Medicare, and Medicaid authorities and programs;
- several authorities related to veterans benefits;
- authorities to waive certain requirements for nutrition programs;
- the National Flood Insurance Program;
- the Appalachian Regional Commission;
- the U.S. Parole Commission;
- the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; and
- several authorities related to immigration.
The bill also includes provisions that
- accelerate reimbursements to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for net realized losses to allow the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue making certain payments to farmers,
- prohibit USDA from using CCC funds to provide payments or support to fossil fuel refiners and importers,
- expand nutrition assistance programs,
- increase and expand U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fees for providing premium processing services for certain immigration-related applications, and
- reauthorize a program that provides incentives (e.g., limitations on civil liability) for corporations to self-report antitrust violations to the Department of Justice.
Freedom First Society Analysis: Although tough action is needed to curtail deficit spending and most significantly to begin rolling back unconstitutional programs, even many conservative representatives are willing to extend government spending via a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR), rather than support a shutdown.
Yet, in this case, 56 Republicans (and 1 Independent) voted against the CR. Representative Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin) explained why in a press release the following day (September 23):
Today, Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06) released the following statement after voting no on H.R. 8337, a continuing resolution bill that will fund the government through December 11, 2020. The bill passed the House of Representatives on September 22, 2020 by a vote of 359-57.
“There are some people who feel Congress is broken and last night we saw another example of why,” said Grothman. “The House, hastily and without enough time to review the legislation, passed a government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, that will keep the government open from October 1 to December 11, 2020. I am against government shutdowns and would normally vote for such a bill.
“On Monday, September 21, a continuing resolution package, with only Democratic support, was added to the House floor calendar for Tuesday, September 22…. Tuesday morning the continuing resolution package was suddenly removed from the calendar for the day and we were told negotiations were continuing with the Senate and White House.
“There was no word on negotiations all day Tuesday. Suddenly, at 6:55 p.m. ET, we were told we would have to vote on a 115-page bill in 35 minutes. The roll call was actually called in 25 minutes.
“I feel it was insulting to hold a vote on such a significant bill without being able to discern the details. I can say that as a former state legislator, there is no way state senators or state representatives would accept such high-handed tactics from their leadership – Democrat or Republican.
“By now, most congressmen have become dispirited and just vote yes on these bills, assuming that the people who negotiated it did a good job. Therefore, the bill passed 359-57. Every Democrat voted for the bill as did, to my surprise and dismay, most Republicans. There were just 57 of us who voted no….
“There is no reason that this vote could not have been taken on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday after we had a chance to responsibly review the bill. I am dismayed that Democrats, some of whom are my friends, allowed Speaker Pelosi to ask them to vote for a bill with so little time to review it….”
Indeed, this vote was forced on the House so fast that the floor debate was even more than its usual sham. Leaders from the Appropriations Committee for each party were given 20 minutes for their own and party-member statements. The two representative leaders were Peter J. Visclosky (D-Indiana) and John R. Moolenaar (R-Michigan).
At one point, Representative Visclosky stated: “Madam Speaker, I do have requests for time, but no one is here, so I reserve the balance of my time at this moment.” Eventually a couple Democrats showed up to make statements.
With the Republicans, it was worse. After his short opening statement supporting the measure, Rep. Moolenaar reserved the balance of his time, which eventually expired without his calling on any other Republican.
Constitutional and Other Issues
Even Rep. Visclosky, the Democratic leader supporting the CR, complained (during the “debate”):
This is a terrible way to govern the United States of America. I regret that I believe most of my colleagues here feel that a continuing resolution does no damage. It does serious damage to the agencies, to the budgeting process, and to fiscal discipline.
We should be having consideration today of 12 [House-Senate] conference reports 8 days away from the beginning of the next fiscal year.
However, the House had passed only 10 of the 12 for Senate consideration. The two appropriation bills for the Homeland Security Department and the Legislative branch were not brought before the full House.
And the 10 bills that were passed were combined into two minibuses of four bills (passed on July 24) and 6 more (passed on July 31). Regular order requires individual floor votes on each of the 12 regular appropriations bills. Combining them into minibuses or an omnibus reduces congressional accountability, encouraging congressmen to accept the bad with the good. Since there has been no strong public objection, this corrupt practice has become commonplace. It has nothing to do with saving time on a crowded congressional calendar, when appropriations are a prime responsibility of Congress.
Joining the “debate,” Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, blamed the Senate for neglecting to consider any of the appropriations and for not presenting anything to conference committees — a reasonable criticism:
The Senate has not marked up a single bill in committee. There is no bill out of committee, and there are no bills on the floor, which means the Senate has essentially abandoned the appropriations process. Madam Speaker, that is not the way that the Congress of the United States ought to work….
What, Madam Speaker, I would urge is every one of us would from now until hopefully before December 11— that is a Friday, we are scheduled to break for Christmas and the holidays — I am hopeful that everyone will put their heads together to get the appropriations process done.
But even Rep. Hoyer, a leader of the Democrats, acknowledges:
We will probably do it in an omnibus, not single appropriations bills, which is not a good way to do it either.
What an admission! Then why do it that way? There are clearly corrupt pressures at work in the absence of sufficient pressure from an informed and aroused public.
We must also observe that it is irresponsible to give the appropriations responsibility to a lame-duck Congress. A lame-duck Congress will be even less accountable to the American people than normal.
National Flood Insurance
This CR is not just an extension of appropriations and programs thru December 11. It also locks in policy for many programs for the entire new fiscal year. As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) boasted during the debate:
This C.R. includes funding for highway and transit programs and the National Flood Insurance Program for another year.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is an entrenched unconstitutional federal program, originating in 1968. At various times, the NFIP has been challenged with calls for reform. But it needs to be phased out completely, not reformed. See our explanation of the origins of the program in our scoring of one of several NFIP extension votes in 2018: S. 1182, House Roll Call 373 (7-25-18).
Federal unconstitutional spending has many tragic consequences, as does deficit spending. Indeed, our very freedom is at stake. Already the states have become dependent on Washington, a reversal of the founding relationship.
If left alone, Congress will continue its destructive path of building and nourishing the federal monster. That course can be changed, but only by an informed and aroused public. The first step of a much better informed public must be to regain its authority over Congress by cleaning house. The leadership for that informed and aroused public is what Freedom First Society is offering.