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GOP, Dems in Congress Wrangling Over $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

Government funding expires Friday at midnight. Appropriators are prepared to offer a short-term spending measure to avoid a government shutdown.
Image: House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol
The House Chamber of the U.S. CapitolCongressional Quarterly / AP, file

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are still trying to hash out a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill but top negotiators acknowledge there are still "a bunch" of issues that both sides need to work out.

"We are making some progress," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said Wednesday afternoon. "There's a lot of work ahead of us but we will get it done."

Current government funding expires Friday at midnight and, as lawmakers will not be able to work out all of their differences by then, appropriators introduced a short-term spending measure to ensure the government does not shutdown late Wednesday which would fund the government for an additional five days, through December 16.

Expect the House to vote on this stop-gap measure Friday.

“This short-term funding resolution will keep the lights on in government and maintain current operations for a few days so Congress can complete and pass an agreement,” Rogers said and "guessing" the full omnibus package will be released "next week."

Related: Rep. Paul Ryan: Short-Term Spending Bill Needed to Avoid Shutdown

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., noted Tuesday they are "not going to let the arbitrary December 11th deadline stop us from getting this right. We are going to get the best agreement we can possibly get."

"We know that we are going to get it right rather than get it done fast," Ryan said.

The White House has been saying they would only accept “a couple” day short-term continuing resolution (CR).

"I think the President has made it clear that if there was a CR it would only be long enough for us to complete the writing up of a bill," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday following a Democratic leadership meeting with administration officials.

Chairman Rogers said there are "dozens" of items that still need to be discussed and resolved for an omnibus deal to be reached.

Some of the items still being discussed include a bill to tighten the vetting of Syrian refugees, lifting a ban on exporting U.S. oil, and environmental provisions.

The top House Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., pushed back on Roger's timeline of next week saying "the issues out there were known to both sides 24 hours ago, and there has to be some decisions made."

"I think if we all sit down and face reality we can probably come to some conclusion," Lowey said, "I think there's a lot of urgency, but you'll have to ask Chairman Rogers and Paul Ryan how they feel about coming to an agreement that makes sense."

The tax extender package to renew dozens of expiring tax breaks also being worked on is also aiding in the delay of a deal.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday that the fact that negotiations regarding both the omnibus package and the tax extenders package are now occurring at the same time has "made things a little more complicated."

"We're waiting on the House to send us something," Cornyn said.

These negotiations also mark the first major deal to be cut by Speaker Ryan since he took over the top position in the House late this fall.

"There is a little bit of learning one another's negotiating style. These are folks, while they've worked together, they have never worked quite this way," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Labor Department, told reporters about Ryan working with Pelosi and other leaders. "There is probably each side putting down a few markers: we are not going to let them (Democrats) jam us and I am sure they (Democrats) are saying the same thing in their conference."

Both sides say they are hopeful they can complete a spending deal by December 18th when Congress is set to adjourn for the year.

"I think there is confidence that we will get a deal in the end," Cole said.