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House GOP Leaders Cancel Votes for the Week

House GOP leaders today canceled floor votes for the week, acknowledging that an energy conference report would not be ready for floor action on Thursday.

Three “parochial” sticking points remain, according to one senior GOP House aide.

One of those sticking points is said to be a provision Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inserted in conference that would provide funding for an educational and environmental dome planned for construction in a small town near Iowa City, Iowa.

Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, declined to discuss the details of the impasse.

“Over the weekend we hit a couple of speed bumps that slowed us down but not anything that is insurmountable,” said Johnson.

Conferees are still deciding how to implement a deal brokered by Vice President Cheney between Grassley and his House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.).

Johnson said both sides are sticking to the plan. But he said that once items that were agreed on in principle get written down on paper, negotiators will say “that’s not what I agreed to” — which slows the process down.

“The closer you get to being done, the harder it gets,” Johnson said, though he added: “We’re still hoping to have it done by Thanksgiving.”

House GOP leaders had planned to take up the bill Thursday, assuming conferees would strike a deal and deliver a report as early as today.

Late last week, GOP leaders had toyed with the idea of giving Members the whole week off since they were not scheduled to vote until Wednesday evening anyway because of Veterans Day. But the leadership said they would only do so if the energy legislation was behind them.

With energy and Medicare negotiations at least temporarily stalled, there is not much else for the House to do, which sparked the decision to cancel this week’s votes altogether.

The House has completed its 13 appropriations bills and is waiting for the Senate — which will be in session this week — to catch up.

Johnson said both the House and Senate would have to take up energy next week to meet the target adjournment date of Nov. 21.

Democrats criticized Republican leaders for surrendering the entire week.

“I’m sure the more than 8.8 million unemployed people in this country are wondering how Republican leaders can take another week off, doing nothing to create jobs, strengthen the economy or help working families,” said Brendan Daly, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

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