By Kristina Peterson
WASHINGTON -- The GOP's sweeping victory in the election diminished the likelihood of Congress striking a major spending deal in its final weeks in session this year, as Republican lawmakers anticipate their increasing leverage in 2017 when a Republican replaces a Democrat in the White House.
Donald Trump's unexpected triumph on Tuesday night will give Republicans complete control of both Congress and the White House next year, reducing their incentive to negotiate with President Barack Obama in their biggest legislative task this year: keeping the government running after its current funding expires on Dec. 9.
"In terms of pure policy, there's nothing to be gained by cutting a deal with Barack Obama, given that a Republican administration will be in place come Jan. 20," said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a conservative group.
Both the House and Senate are expected to return to Washington on Monday for the first time since late September, with only a few legislative tasks to finish up before the next crop of lawmakers takes office in January.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told reporters on Wednesday that he spoke with Mr. Obama about making sure they pass legislation funding the government by the end of this calendar year.
Mr. McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) have focused all year on passing the individual bills setting spending through September 2017 that reflect their funding priorities.
"We would like to finish funding the government this year," Mr. McConnell said.
But that aspiration may be complicated in the House, where Republicans are likely to want to wait and negotiate with Mr. Trump. They may lobby instead for simply extending the government's current funding into 2017.
"There's a lot of encouragement to get any longer-term or major spending bill delayed until there's a Republican in the White House [who] we can work with," said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.)
Even though Congress and the White House agreed last fall to overall funding levels through September 2017, the House and Senate have so far passed only one of the 12 spending bills needed to implement that budget agreement for fiscal year 2017. The White House may also request additional defense funding.
In years past, lawmakers have often rolled the individual spending bills into one sweeping package to streamline the year-end frenzy. But conservatives already were signaling they would balk at that strategy, even before Mr. Trump's presidential win.
Lawmakers also will have to pass the annual defense policy bill. The House and Senate have passed separate bills that are currently being merged together. The White House said in May it would veto the House version over its bid to boost spending by diverting funds out of an emergency war account. Meanwhile, Democrats in both chambers have raised concerns over a provision they believe will allow government contractors to disregard federal guidelines against gender and sexual-preference discrimination.
Separately, both Messrs. Ryan and McConnell have said they hope to pass legislation that would direct additional funding, potentially as much as $2 billion in 2017, to the National Institutes of Health. The bill is supported by the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden particularly eager for as much as $1 billion for his so-called cancer moonshot project.
But House Republicans want to tie the funding to regulatory changes at the Food and Drug Administration that would benefit the drug industry. They argue the changes would help speed new therapies to patients, but consumer groups and academic doctors said they would sacrifice public health in favor of the pharmaceutical companies.
Lawmakers also may push to limit the repercussions of a law letting Americans sue foreign governments over terrorist attacks. Both the House and Senate soundly overrode President Barack Obama's veto of the bill in late September, but have since expressed concerns that the law enabling victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and their families to sue Saudi Arabia may also open up U.S. intelligence officials and diplomats to lawsuits from other countries.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), one of the bill's champions, said in an interview this week that he would be willing to "look at changes, but not to take away people's right to sue." Mr. Schumer said he hadn't yet seen a proposal to narrow the law.
Congress also is expected to passa water-resources bill that will include federal assistance for Flint, Mich., residents, whose drinking water became contaminated with lead in 2014.
--Thomas M. Burton contributed to this article.
Write to Kristina Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 09, 2016 19:48 ET (00:48 GMT)
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