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House GOP Push to Reverse Course on Spending Strategy Fails

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., don’t appear to have the votes to pursue a 12-bill omnibus spending package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., don’t appear to have the votes to pursue a 12-bill omnibus spending package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House GOP appropriators’ and other rank-and-file members’ last-minute push to vote on a full 12-bill spending package before the August recess has failed to garner enough support for leadership to reverse course.

The now twice-made decision to proceed with a four-bill minibus package of national security-related appropriations bills instead of a 12-bill omnibus is a blow to those in the Republican Conference who saw pursuing a 12-bill strategy a win.

But leadership told the conference Tuesday there are not the votes to pass a 12-bill omnibus — not even close enough to bring it the floor and hope that it might pass — but if that changes they would consider scheduling a vote on it, according to a source in the room.

“We have consensus for these four bills,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday after the conference meeting. “We do not yet have consensus on the other eight bills.”

Former House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said he’s disappointed the House will not proceed with the omnibus this week, noting he believes the votes would have been there if they did.

“There’s a good deal of sentiment expressed this morning about the desirability of getting the 12 bills,” the Kentucky Republican said. “So we’ll continue to fight.”

Rogers and several other members said they hope the House will come back in September and vote on the omnibus.

While many members expressed an openness to stay in session next week (when the House’s August recess is scheduled to begin) to vote on the omnibus, most acknowledged that option appears to be off the table unless the tide suddenly shifts.

Appropriations Committee member Tom Cole said he believes the votes on the omnibus are close enough that they can get there and that he is hopeful they’ll revisit the idea in September.

“I really think if we could’ve voted today it would’ve happened because I think a lot of folks just want an opportunity to be reassured about what’s in the bill,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

Indeed, several members were hesitant to commit they’d be a “yes” on the final omnibus bill without knowing what amendments would be offered despite being generally supportive of the idea.

“The appropriate call I think is being made to put on the floor what we can get done and then move forward in September,” New York Rep. Tom Reed said.

While Reed said the omnibus could resurface after the recess, he said it’s not guaranteed given the time crunch lawmakers will be facing before the September 30 funding deadline.

“Obviously September is also going to be a time where we’re going to have to cut a deal with the Democrats because that’s a reality of the situation,” the co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus said.

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, agreed on the need for leadership to immediately start negotiating a deal on topline spending numbers, since a statutory change will be needed to enforce numbers above the sequester caps like the increase House Republicans have proposed on defense spending.

Whether the House moves 12 appropriations bills or four doesn’t really matter, Dent said.

“We spend too much time, energy and capital here on getting people to vote for the first launch, for the takeoff, knowing damn well a lot of those same people won’t be there for the landing,” he said. “They won’t be there for the real appropriations package at the real numbers.”

Despite widespread disappointment that the omnibus strategy did not materialize, most members said they plan to support the security “minibus” when it comes to the floor this week.

“I think it would be a whole lot easier to do it now than splitting it up and going in different directions,” Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk said. “But if you don’t have the votes, you have no choice to get what you have to get done, which is national security.”

Texas Rep. Joe Barton, a Freedom Caucus member, said there’s no real difference between passing the security bills now and doing the rest in September and passing them all now. He dismissed the notion that Republicans would have trouble passing the other eight bills and expressed confidence they will get done this fall.

Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat said the main reason to do all 12 now is the unknown of what will happen with other eight.

“It’s supposed to be this bottom-up, open-playbook regular order,” the Virginia Republican said. “That was the 12, and then you get conservative policy built into all the 12 instead of just the four.”

Brat said it’s hard to identify who is opposed to moving forward with the omnibus when everyone in conference who got up to speak said they liked the idea. He said he’s undecided on whether to support the minibus and would like more clarity on why leadership feels it’s best to do the minibus over all 12 bills.

“There was a little hint that the Democrats may throw in some objections,” he said. “But I don’t fully understand that yet.”

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