House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has agreed to reopen the pending nine-bill spending package and rewrite language that sought to reinstate the Bush-era travel ban to Cuba, a move designed to address White House concerns and win the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to senior Republican and Democratic staffers.
Republicans said Rogers was reluctant to make the move and is doing so with the understanding from Reid that if the Cuba travel and gift language is dropped and Obama’s existing travel policy is protected, Reid will release the conference report for full House and Senate consideration. Rogers worked with Reid’s staff late into Wednesday night and continued talks on Thursday morning. A deal announcing this arrangement is anticipated in the coming hours.
The House Rules Committee may meet at 3 p.m. to consider the rule for an appropriations measure for consideration Friday. The hope in top GOP and Democratic circles is the conference report can become the vehicle for consideration. If the deal doesn’t mature in time, the Rules Committee will use the GOP’s three-bill package introduced Thursday night that incorporates the conference agreement and does not change the Cuba language.
Until that announcement, though, other House Republican aides remain cautious about the deal sticking. The Cuba language – which reflects Obama policy of allowing Cuban immigrants to travel to the Island and send money to relatives - has the strong backing of Florida Republicans, chief among them Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Keeping the existing Cuba policy will be controversial in House GOP circles, aides said. If it is the only concession made, however, it may prove the best way to resolve the current appropriations stand-off and move the nine-bill conference report through both chambers in time to avert a government shutdown set to begin midnight on Friday.
Several lawmakers predicted Congress will finish both bills by Friday night, possibility working late. “That’s my best guess,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told reporters.
Dan Friedman contributed. contributed to this article.