Today on the Hill: House Conservatives Nearly Sink Conference Motion Over CR Concerns

A House vote to send the tax reform bill to conference last night was nearly derailed after a surprise threat from the House Freedom Caucus to block the motion as a means to protest the anticipated two-week continuing resolution (CR) that Republican leadership has been plotting to use to keep the government open beyond Dec. 8. The group of conservative lawmakers eventually backed down from their threats and the motion was passed 222-192, but the maneuver creates a new dynamic in the fight to fund the government this week. House leadership reportedly broke the impasse by assuring Freedom Caucus members that the CR will extend to Dec. 30 rather than the proposed Dec. 22 date, which conservatives believe will provide them additional leverage. With Democratic support for a funding measure also highly tenuous and reliant on policy concessions, Republican leadership will be treading carefully in the days ahead to try and avoid a government shutdown.

Floor action today will be relatively limited. The House has a set of seven suspension bills on their docket, focused primarily on international affairs. One Senate-passed bill (S. 1266) in that set would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into contacts with nonprofit organizations to investigate medical centers at the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of the congressional initiative to improve accountability at the agency.

Meanwhile, the Senate has only a single vote on its schedule, namely a final up-or-down vote on the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Cloture was invoked on the nomination last night on a 59-33 vote. The Senate is expected to make its own compound motion to go to conference on the tax bill later this week, with the goal of starting the conference with the House on Friday.