Trump confirmation hearings likely to extend continuing resolution

As the deadline for a spending bill to fund the federal government draws near, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the Senate’s role in the transition efforts of President-elect Donald Trump could extend the end date of the next continuing resolution past the end of March 2017.

While congressional sources told Federal News Radio they expect a floor vote on the continuing resolution next week, ahead of the Dec. 9 deadline, Ryan told reporters during his weekly press conference on Dec. 1 that it’s up to Senate leadership to decide on a CR deadline.

“In the House, we can have a shorter CR and it’s not a problem for us. It’s really a question of managing the Senate’s calendar, and that’s what this discussion about the end date of the CR is all about,” Ryan said Thursday.

Just after the presidential election, Ryan had projected a short-term CR that would fund the federal government at its current levels until March 31, but the Senate will soon find itself busy with confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet secretaries, just a fraction of the more than 1,200 political hires that will require Senate approval during the Trump administration.

“They’ve got to stand up the Trump government, so the Senate is going to have to do all of these confirmation votes and hearings on Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officers, probably going to have a Supreme Court pick coming sooner or later that they’re going to have to confirm. That takes a lot of their time, which we don’t have here in the House,” Ryan said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Nov. 29 said keeping the Pentagon’s budget stuck at current levels up until May 2017 would be “unprecedented and unacceptable.”

“A short-term CR is bad enough, but a CR through May means DoD would have to operate under its constraints for two-thirds of the fiscal year,” Carter wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

Congress also faces a vote on the so-called debt ceiling in March, or the upper dollar limit that the federal government may borrow. It last voted in the fall of 2015 to hold the debt ceiling at $20 trillion.

With a soon-to-be Republican majority in both the House and Senate, Ryan said he hopes to renegotiate federal spending levels on better terms with the Trump administration.

“We wanted to bring in the new Republican government in place so we could negotiate appropriations with that government, which we think is going to be much better at negotiations than with the existing government that we have a lot of problems with the way they spend money.”

Ryan also praised the 2.1 percent pay raise for military service members in the finalized 2017 defense authorization bill (NDAA), which is expected to receive a vote on Friday.

“This is extremely important, to give our warfighters what they need, to give our military the kind of reforms they need to stretch our military dollars farther. That’s something that we’re excited about bringing to the floor,” Ryan said.

The White House in May threatened to veto the NDAA, and instead proposed at 1.6 percent pay increase for the uniformed services for 2017.

Read the latest news about the incoming administration on our Tracking the Transition page.

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