WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is pushing a pre-election shopping list on its Democratic allies in Congress as they prepare must-pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown next month.
Republicans are protesting the spending requests, which include $1.9 billion for school grants, financial help for the Postal Service and more than $4 billion requested by the administration to finance settlements of long-standing lawsuits against the government.
A back-of-the-envelope tally by Republicans puts the price tag of the Obama requests at more than $25 billion, including $5.7 billion to prevent shortfalls in the popular Pell Grant program and $5.5 billion the cash-strapped Postal Service.
The White House is targeting a bill to continue funding the government past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year to carry its spending requests. The measure is needed because Congress is failing to pass the annual spending bills that fund the day-to-day operations of the government.
Such stopgap funding bills typically don't carry controversial legislation or large spending initiatives. But the stopgap measure is the last measure that Congress absolutely has to pass before the elections, and so it is a tempting target on which to add unfinished business.
"The Obama administration, Speaker Pelosi and Democrat leaders are going to try and use this (stopgap bill) as a 'Hail Mary' pass for more government spending and policy items in a frantic last dash before the election," said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.
The administration also wants to renew parts of last year's economic stimulus measure, including $800 million for child care grants to states.
Some of the proposals, including $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination by the Agriculture Department against black farmers and $3.4 billion for mismanaging Indian trust funds, passed the House and Senate earlier this year as part of larger legislation but were stripped out due to cost concerns.