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Omnibus Pushed to March; New CR in View

House Democratic leaders are punting on the omnibus spending bill until after the Presidents Day recess, a shift that increases the possibility that Congress will have to consider another continuing resolution to keep the government operating.

The House will likely finish its work on the bill sometime before March 6, “in the two weeks after we come back” from the mid-February recess that kicks off on Feb. 13, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

The delay in moving the package of leftover fiscal 2009 spending bills puts Democratic leaders right up against the March 6 expiration of a continuing resolution that has kept much of the government funded at fiscal 2008 levels. Failure to send the omnibus to the White House before that date means Congress will have to pass another temporary spending measure to keep the government funded.

The bill was originally slated for House debate this week but slipped as House leaders await Senate action on their biggest legislative priority: the $819 billion economic stimulus package.

Hoyer said he expects Senate debate on the economic stimulus legislation to continue into next week, with Democratic leaders aiming to send a final bill to President Barack Obama’s desk by next Friday.

While the Senate stimulus proposal has grown in size from the House version, Hoyer said Democratic leaders and the administration have a shared objective of keeping the bill under $900 billion. He noted that one of the reasons the Senate bill costs more is because it includes the alternative minimum tax patch, a $70 billion sweetener for Republicans.

Hoyer said the AMT inclusion in the Senate plan is “obviously an attempt” to bring Republicans into the fold, adding that the House will “probably take that.”

The Senate plan also carries a bigger price tag because it includes more infrastructure money, Hoyer said, which is something that a majority of House Republicans and Democrats support. “I think the House is certainly open to more infrastructure spending,” he said.

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