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Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Heads Home for the Holidays

The House successfully approved a stopgap-spending bill to fund the government through April 28. House lawmakers approved the continuing resolution (CR) by a vote of 326-96 on December 8, with just over 24-hours to spare before the previous CR expired at midnight on December 9. A total of 208 Republicans and 118 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, with 33 Republicans and 63 Democrats in opposition. The CR is in line with the fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending cap of $1.07 trillion. It includes supplemental spending provisions for health needs in Flint, Mich. as well as funding for the recently passed biomedical innovation package known as the 21st Century Cures Act. Under this funding, $353 million will be allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $20 million to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and $500 million to states to respond to the opioid abuse and addiction epidemic. The CR also includes a waiver to allow former Gen. James Mattis to be considered as President-Elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense. Current law requires a seven-year buffer of former military officers before they are allowed to head the Department of Defense. This law was put in place after World War II to ensure civilian control of the military. Former Gen. James Mattis retired from the military in 2013 and therefore would require a congressional waiver to be eligible to serve as Secretary of Defense. The 1947 law originally required a minimum of 10 years out of active duty, however, a congressional waiver was granted in 1950 when President Truman requested one for his Secretary of Defense nominee, George Marshall. The law was later changed to require a minimum of seven years. The Senate faced delays in passing the CR due to last-minute demands concerning the removal of retirement and health funds for coal miners. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) threatened to keep Congress in session and result in a government shutdown in the absence of a permanent extension of the Miners Protection Act. However, Senate Democrats decided they would not shut down the government and Senator Manchin stated his intent to continue fighting for coal miners in the next Congress. Less than one hour before the midnight deadline, the Senate passed the CR by a vote of 63-36, and the President Obama signed it into law early Saturday. The first vote of the 115th Congress will be on January 3 - a roll call vote to formally re-elect the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

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