House Republicans are considering passing a short-term extension of government funding this week to buy more time for negotiations over a year-end omnibus spending bill as a deal with Democrats proves elusive and a Friday deadline for avoiding a shutdown nears.
GOP leaders are discussing a stop-gap bill that would cover a few days, but some conservatives are pushing for a longer extension that would go into next year as they seek to add policy provisions to the must-pass legislation.
Several Republicans said after a weekly party meeting Tuesday that Democrats are trying to use the Friday deadline to pressure GOP lawmakers to back down on their priorities.
“I think they’re trying to jam us,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “We aren’t going to have an omnibus with no riders.”
Among the GOP riders Democrats oppose are proposals to restrict the ability of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the country, block environmental rules advanced by the Obama administration and rollback financial regulations required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.
“We know that we’re going to get it right instead of get it done fast,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said of the negotiations, while adding House GOP leaders will give lawmakers three days to scrutinize any deal. “We’re going to make sure that members of Congress and therefore the public have the time to read what is agreed to. But we’re not going to let an arbitrary Dec. 11 deadline stop us from getting this right. We’re going to get the best agreement we can possibly get, and those negotiations are ongoing.”
Staff members for Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were expected to meet Tuesday afternoon on both the tax and spending negotiations.
Some conservatives floated the idea of a six-week extension of current federal spending levels in order to give negotiators more time to work out an agreement, but most Republicans said they would like to see a much shorter extension.
“It just prolongs the inevitable,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a leading moderate. “It just creates another cliff and provides for more drama, dysfunction and budgetary instability.”
On Monday, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest warned that President Obama would not sign a short-term spending bill to buy more time for negotiations but would consider approving one if it was only needed to provide a few days for final votes to occur.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he thinks a short-term spending bill of about one to two days could pass the Senate.
“I don’t think we want to have any situation here we don’t have everything open and functioning,” Thune said. “I would hope that it wouldn’t be more than a day or two at most.”
House Democrats also appeared open to a very short extension.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that it could be reasonable to allow until Dec. 18 to complete a spending bill.
“Longer than that is a problem,” he said.
Members said the talks have been further complicated by simultaneous negotiations on a package of tax breaks that has become closely linked with the spending bill.
Some leaders hope that progress on the tax package could ease pressure on the spending negotiations by allowing Republicans to claim victory over a large-scale tax break for businesses and individuals.
Late Monday, House Republicans filed a scaled back bill that would retroactively reauthorize the breaks that expired last year and then extend them for one year going forward.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters on Tuesday that even though the bill has been filed he expects negotiations will continue on a bigger deal that could make several breaks, including the research and development tax credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, permanent.
“We want negotiations to continue,” Brady said.
Brady also said he is considering adding language to the bill that would delay for two years the implementation of two provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a tax on medical device manufacturers and a levy on high value health plans known as the Cadillac Tax.
Several negotiators and aides said that prospects for the broader bill were increasingly positive despite frustration from House Democrats.
Some House Democrats, including Hoyer and Pelosi oppose the broader bill over concerns that the tax cuts would forgo an estimated $700 to $800 billion in future tax revenue.
Some also worry that it would make some costly business tax breaks permanent and make it harder to find savings if Congress attempts tax reform in the future.
“We believe a large bill like that is not justified and in fact could be harmful,” Hoyer said. “It would undermine the ability to do tax reform.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report