Partisan Sniping Muddles Timeline for Finishing Omnibus

House leaders kicked off the week by blaming the other side for slow negotiations.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
AP Photo/Molly Riley
Dec. 7, 2015, 4:54 p.m.

Con­gres­sion­al lead­ers opened the work week snip­ing at each oth­er over slow-go­ing ne­go­ti­ations on a sweep­ing gov­ern­ment-fund­ing bill, scut­tling early op­tim­ism that ne­go­ti­at­ors could wrap the bill by Monday and pass it in the House by Fri­day.

Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy said the House could work in­to the week­end to fin­ish the om­ni­bus bill, and blamed the hol­dup on Demo­crat­ic lead­ers, who he said have not em­powered their ne­go­ti­at­ors to cut a deal. He re­it­er­ated, as he said last week, that a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion could be ne­ces­sary to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down and give the Sen­ate time to pass a pack­age next week.

“There’s been a num­ber of is­sues that have not been fi­nal­ized,” he told re­port­ers. “From my un­der­stand­ing, some may be com­ing from maybe the Demo­crat side in the House on ne­go­ti­at­ing the fi­nal por­tions. Some have been with­held from be­ing able to ne­go­ti­ate on the ap­props side from the Demo­crats. I think maybe their lead­er­ship wants to ne­go­ti­ate.”

“They were not giv­en the au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate on a lot of the dif­fer­ent points so that has slowed the pro­cess down,” Mc­Carthy con­tin­ued.

Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi’s of­fice shot back, not­ing the bill is held up over GOP in­sist­ence on policy add-ons. Pelosi has said meas­ures deal­ing with the en­vir­on­ment, fin­an­cial reg­u­la­tions, and Syr­i­an refugees have been their main stick­ing points.

“On the Om­ni­bus bill, House Demo­crats ac­cep­ted the Re­pub­lic­an budget num­ber. We ac­cep­ted how they de­cided to dis­trib­ute the funds from the budget agree­ment. In or­der for us to sup­port the Om­ni­bus bill, the pois­on pill riders must go,” Pelosi wrote Monday in a let­ter to her col­leagues.

Yet neither side re­vealed which is­sues are hold­ing up the pro­cess, and com­plic­at­ing the bill are con­cur­rent ne­go­ti­ations over a bal­loon­ing pack­age of tax breaks and policies.

Pelosi said Demo­crats want to make the child tax cred­it per­man­ent and in­dex it to in­fla­tion, but Re­pub­lic­ans re­jec­ted the in­dex­ing. In meet­ings with her mem­bers, she said she heard that the bill may be grow­ing too far-reach­ing for mem­bers’ taste, a sen­ti­ment that has been shared by mem­bers in both cham­bers and on both sides of the aisle.

“Dur­ing the Caucus meet­ing last week, it was clear that, in the ab­sence of a bal­ance between work­ing fam­il­ies and busi­ness pro­vi­sions, the per­man­ent bill was on a dan­ger­ous path of be­ing too large for mem­bers to sup­port,” Pelosi wrote.

House aides said they still hope to reach an agree­ment this week.

One of the out­stand­ing is­sues is Re­pub­lic­ans’ de­sire to in­clude in the om­ni­bus a House-passed bill that would re­quire ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to sign off on every Syr­i­an refugee en­ter­ing the coun­try, which was taken up after the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is.

The is­sue had been a sens­it­ive polit­ic­al mat­ter since the at­tacks in Par­is and looks to con­tin­ue in the wake of the more re­cent ter­ror­ism-linked shoot­ings in San Bern­ardino, Cali­for­nia. Lead­ing GOP pres­id­en­tial con­tender Don­ald Trump on Monday called for a blanket ban on all Muslims en­ter­ing the coun­try “un­til we are able to de­term­ine and un­der­stand this prob­lem and the dan­ger­ous threat it poses,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from his cam­paign.

The House will also pass a bill this week tight­en­ing con­trols on the U.S.’s visa waiver pro­gram, but Mc­Carthy said the bill is not be­ing passed in lieu of the refugee le­gis­la­tion.

“I would like to see the Syr­i­an refugee bill be­come law, and have a de­bate in the Sen­ate,” he said. “But I don’t look at [the visa waiver] bill based on, ‘Does that do something to the omni or not?’ I just look at that as a great threat so I want to make sure that gets done as soon as pos­sible.”

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn, mean­while, said Monday that there are sev­er­al out­stand­ing is­sues on the om­ni­bus deal that will likely pre­vent a deal from be­ing reached Tues­day, push­ing the spend­ing pack­age even closer to Fri­day’s dead­line. Asked wheth­er the fight could bleed in­to next week, for­cing Con­gress to pass a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, Cornyn said: “Maybe.”

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
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