WASHINGTON ― House Democrats have filed a stopgap spending measure to avoid a government shutdown and keep the Department of Defense and other federal agencies operating through Dec. 11.
The continuing resolution would allow the Navy to begin detailed design and construction work on two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, but leaves out White House requests for Space Force and nuclear weapons programs.
The bill would also extend the window for reimbursing government contractors for costs related to COVID-19 through Dec. 11. Trade groups had urged lawmakers for an extension as the pandemic has, for defense firms, created weapons program slowdowns, temporary factory closures and cash flow problems, particularly for smaller companies.
The CR, expected to be taken up by the House this week, was released Monday by the House Appropriations Committee.
In addition to the $1.6 billion for the Columbia-class sub, the bill would bar the Pentagon from launching new start programs, and omits funding for several so-called anomalies the Trump administration requested.
Without congressional intervention, the Navy would not have the money or authorization to begin work on the boats the sea service announced in June as part of a planned $10.4 billion contract with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
The bill comes amid weeks of stalled negotiations on a new pandemic relief bill, but lead lawmakers have committed to reaching an agreement to avoid a government shutdown. While some Democrats sought a CR that would last into early 2021, party leaders offered a bill whose December deadline aligned with what Republicans wanted.
Defense officials and industry leaders had said they preferred a shorter continuing resolution, because they cannot start new programs or increase spending on existing priorities under the restrictions from previous fiscal year funding.
Still, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., immediately rejected the House proposal in a tweet: “House Democrats' rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America.”
Failing to pass a CR would mean a government shutdown ahead of the Nov. 3 elections. Funding expires for the federal government on Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2020.
With there bill’s release, House Democrats blamed Republicans, who control the Senate, for not passing appropriations bills as the Democrat-led House did earlier in the year.
“While the House did its job and passed bills funding nearly every government agency, Senate Republicans did not even begin the appropriations process. Because of their irresponsibility, a continuing resolution is sadly necessary,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
“This clean continuing resolution keeps government open while giving Congress additional time to negotiate annual appropriations bills that will invest for the people.”
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.