The Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 64 House lawmakers, endorsed a framework to avert a government shutdown that provides an alternative to the internally divisive short-term stopgap being formulated by House Republicans.
It also comes as Republicans reported major progress in reworking their continuing resolution framework Wednesday evening, with some conservative lawmakers moving to support the plan in part due to the threat of moderate Republicans working with Democrats to force an alternative. The government shutdown deadline is Sept. 30.
The Problem Solvers Caucus agreement released late Wednesday would extend government funding at current levels through Jan. 11, 2024, to give Congress more than three extra months to agree on regular appropriations — much longer than the Oct. 31 target that Republicans are eyeing.
“It’s about commonsense governing over extremism — and it’s the way Washington should work,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the caucus, said in a statement.
“With divided control of Congress, solutions to issues as critical as funding the federal government demand a two-party solution, with compromises agreed to by both sides,” caucus co-chairman Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) added in a statement.
It includes an agreement to pass full-year fiscal 2024 appropriations bills at the spending caps agreed to in the “Fiscal Responsibility Act” debt limit increase bill that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) negotiated with President Biden. The House has marked up appropriation bills below that figure, as conservatives press GOP leaders for an even lower topline, while the Senate’s appropriations bills have exceeded that target.
Along with extending government funding into next year, it would approve Biden’s supplemental funding request for about $24.1 billion in additional funding for Ukraine — a measure not included in the House GOP plan as many Republicans balk at providing extra assistance.
And it would provide some kind of bipartisan “border security solution” with the enforcement through Dec. 31, 2024. The Problem Solvers plan did not get more specific on what a border plan would entail.
The Problem Solvers continuing resolution plan would also create some forward-looking measures aiming to prevent fiscal crises in the future, including adopting processes for regular order when passing spending legislation; directing the Comptroller General to issue an annual report on the “fiscal state of the nation”; and directing the president to release a mid-year report on the nation’s budget.
Additionally, it would create a fiscal commission to recommend changes to address the national debt and deficit, and require the Congressional Budget Office to consider the cost of servicing the debt in its estimations.
Republican members of the group had been teasing an alternative plan for days as frustration with conservative Republicans who opposed the GOP plan grew.
“Some of these guys are just not going to vote for anything. I’m of the opinion that we need to work across the aisle, because you got to get Senate support anyway,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), co-lead the Problem Solvers Caucus Appropriations and Debt and Deficit Working Group, told The Hill earlier this week.
The House GOP framework, unlike the Problem Solvers plan, is not designed to be a final framework that will become law. Instead, the strategy is to show a united front of Republicans to set them up for negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate on a stopgap bill.