The House on Friday passed a stop-gap spending bill that will give Congress until the middle of next week to complete a deal on a year-end appropriations package needed to fund the government.
The measure passed in a voice vote after minimal debate. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote on Thursday.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said that the funding extension will last through Dec. 16 and he hopes it will buy enough time to finish the negotiations.
“We’ve already settled about half of the titles within the committee, but we’ve gotta negotiate the rest of the items and there’s dozens of them,” Rogers said Friday. “Then we’ve got to write the bill, read it, read it out and score it, and get all that done this weekend.”
Negotiators plan to work through the weekend as they continue to haggle over what policy riders should be attached to the legislation and how to handle a separate package of tax breaks for businesses and individuals that is also part of the year-end negotiations.
There is still a chance negotiators will need even more time. Rogers wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Congress would have to pass another short-term spending bill to allow the House and Senate to both complete their work.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has promised to give lawmakers three days to read the text of any final agreement. Once that process is complete the Senate could need at least two or three additional days to debate and pass a bill.
Democrats continue to object to as many as 50 unrelated policy riders that Republicans want to add to the spending bill. Among the riders most opposed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are attempts to scale back clean air and water regulations, repeal portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, ease regulations on for-profit colleges and weaken President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Pelosi said on Friday that House Democrats also oppose a package of tax breaks that is currently being negotiated. Congress has routinely approved short-term extensions of nearly all of the approximately 50 tax breaks and benefits for businesses and individuals, but Republican leaders are pushing for a deal to make many of the breaks permanent.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday that Democrats worry the large package could cost as much as $800 billion, does not go far enough to help low income families and could undermine Democrats’ leverage in any future attempt at comprehensive tax reform.
“From our perspective on our side in the House of Representatives [the tax extender bill would] substantially exacerbate our deficit [and] will undermine our viability of getting tax reform done in the next session or in the years to come,” Hoyer said.
The latest version of the tax proposal would make permanent popular breaks, such as the research and development tax credit for businesses, charitable breaks for businesses and individuals as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC) and American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses (AOTC). Pelosi insists that she cannot support the bill.
Members dismissed speculation Friday that the two bills could be combined in hopes that supporters of each individual bill would be forced to vote for the entire package. Aides and members said there is concern that strategy could just as easily risk alienating members on both sides.
“They’ll have enough Republican votes supporting their special interest friends to pass this thing in a second,” Pelosi said Friday. “That’s why I don’t want it joined to the omnibus bill because they don’t want to support the omnibus bill.”
House Ways and Means tax policy subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany (R-La.) said he prefers to keep the two bills separate and let people vote based on the issues in each bill.
“I think the vote calculation is going to be different on each one,” Boustany said. “I think as we start to lose Republican riders in the omnibus we potentially lose Republican votes and maybe start to pick up Democrats.”