Negotiators Hope to Unveil Omnibus on Monday
Members of Congress will likely get their first look at a year-end omnibus spending bill on Monday, as negotiators work over the weekend after buying themselves more time through a series of legislative moves Thursday.
“I think it’ll take us at least until Monday,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said of posting the omnibus text. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn shared that sentiment. The Texas Republican said late Thursday afternoon there is still no deal, but it’s his “hope and expectation” the House will post the text Monday, which would set it up for a final passage vote Wednesday.
He said he hopes there will be enough cooperation in the Senate to also pass the catchall Wednesday without the need for another short term CR. He also said at this point that a deal on extending expired tax provisions is still linked to the omnibus.
The comments came after the Senate passed by voice vote Thursday a five-day continuing resolution that extends government funding past Friday’s deadline to Dec. 16.
The chamber used an amended bill the House had passed earlier this spring, the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations measure. The maneuver enables the Senate to lob the funding fight over the House and gives rank-and-file senators the ability to head home for the weekend, as negotiators hammer out a final deal on the omnibus.
Earlier Thursday, Rogers said negotiators had only moved a “few inches” closer to a deal on an omnibus spending measure in the past day.
The Kentucky Republican said the new Dec. 16 funding deadline that will be set with passage of a five-day continuing resolution won’t be easy to meet — but when asked about the possibility of a second extension being necessary, Rogers dismissed the idea.
“Oh please,” he said.
Ryan Defends Short-Term CR
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If appropriators and congressional leaders are going to come to an agreement in time to prepare a bill and have both chambers of Congress pass it before the midnight on Dec. 16, Rogers said, they really only have a day or two to move several yards.
“We’re not close to a [touchdown],” Rogers said.
But as football players can pull off unexpected plays to score, so too can appropriators. Rogers said the five-day CR is meant to keep the pressure on negotiators to reach a deal.
Once an omnibus is set, it could take four or five days before the House is prepared to vote on it — and the Senate would also need time to pass it, so negotiators are aiming to close a deal this weekend.
“Time is truly of the essence,” Rogers said. “Even the five-day extension is going to be really close because of the built-in time capsules that must take place — the three-day layover,” he said, referring to the House rule on how long bill text must be public before a vote, “and the two days we’ll need to write the bill and polish it up.”
House Republicans met Thursday morning, but they didn’t talk much about the omnibus, according to members present. One of the contentious issues Rogers said still has not been resolved is whether to attach a House-passed bill to enhance the certification process for refugees trying to enter the United States from Syria and Iraq.
“We all think it should be in there,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said. “We had 47 Democrats voting for the bill and we’re not going to put it in the omnibus, are you kidding me?”
Meanwhile, at a news conference with families of victims of gun violence, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats want a proposed ban on research on gun violence removed from the omnibus.
“There’s a vehicle leaving the station, it’s called the omnibus bill — a bus leaving the station, omnibus bill, meaning all of the legislation for appropriations. And we must insist that we cannot have a bill leave the station that still has that ban on research in it,” Pelosi said of the Dickey Amendment that prevents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from spending funds on researching gun violence.
Asked whether Democrats will vote for the omnibus, Pelosi demurred, saying, “That’s not the question, the question is we do this one step at a time.”
Speaker Paul D. Ryan had no comment on Pelosi’s calls for Republicans to remove the rider from the omnibus.
“I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” he said, “you know that.”
Bridget Bowman, Ryan McCrimmon, Tamar Hallerman, Emma Dumain and Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.
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