Compromise spending measure not yet ready to be unveiled

A compromise spending measure that would keep government funded through next September will not be unveiled late Monday, despite steady progress by House and Senate negotiators toward a bipartisan compromise on the bill over the weekend.

Aides had said appropriators working to draw up the nearly $1 trillion measure had hoped to complete their work by Monday, smoothing the process for congressional passage of the funding bill this week and sparing Washington the specter of a fight that would bring government to the brink of a shutdown.

That’s happened three times in the last year, and members of both parties have said they would like to avoid that kind of fight this time.

A short-term measure that’s kept the government funded expires Dec. 16.

Late Monday, aides were disputing the breadth of the issues still to be resolved in the bill — which will likely outline funding priorities for three-fourths of the government through Sept. 30, 2012.

A Republican aide indicated that a “bipartisan, bicameral agreement” was in place and but that more time was needed to complete the process of compiling the massive bill.

But a senior Democratic aide said “major” issues remain, including whether to include a policy rider that would bar the District of Columbia from funding abortions for low-income women.

Democrats accepted the same provision in an April funding deal that averted a shutdown, and they have been smarting over the deal ever since.

The Republican aide indicated that negotiators are now hoping to make the measure public Tuesday, which would allow for a Thursday House vote under rules established by Republican leaders.

But, said the senior Democratic aide, “Republicans are trying to force through extreme policy riders on women’s health, the environment and other issues to appease the tea party.”

Another Democratic aide also said there is no deal but that the outstanding issues “are not deal breakers or game changers.”

The spending talks come amid a separate bitter fight over extending an expiring cut in the payroll tax rate, and it is possible the two issues could become entangled.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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