With government funding set to expire in less than 72-hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are still trying to forge a spending bill deal to avert a government shutdown as “significant issues” still remain.
“Negotiations continued throughout the weekend and progress was made but there is no deal yet and the discussions continue,” a spokesman for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told NBC News Monday.
“Progress (was) made over the weekend,” a House Democratic aide confirmed but added “significant issues remain.”
Speaker Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi — who met privately for a rare dinner together in the Capitol Friday evening — have been in regular contact about the massive $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill referred to as the omnibus.
These negotiations mark the first major interaction for Pelosi and Ryan since he took over as Speaker adding another layer to the talks — especially given Republican leaders will need Democrat votes in order to pass whatever deal gets struck.
“We want to get it right, we don’t want to rush legislation especially big legislation like this omnibus appropriations,” Ryan told reporters Thursday. “This is something I more or less inherited from the last regime and I don’t want to rush things through here, I want to get it right.”
House Republicans will have a conference call Monday tonight to talk about the ongoing omnibus negotiations.
Congress was already forced to pass a 5-day extension — called a continuing resolution (CR) — Friday to avert a government shutdown as negotiators were unable to strike a deal before the original December 11th deadline.
A House Appropriations Committee aide said while it is still “possible” a bill could be posted today, “it wouldn't be until very late” which means Congress will likely be forced to pass yet another CR this week to allow both the House and Senate time to consider the legislation.
If a bill is posted Monday – and that is still not certain — the earliest the House could vote would be Wednesday as Ryan has pledged to his Republican House colleagues they would have three days to review any deal before the legislation comes to the floor for a vote.
A major tax extender package to renew dozens of expiring tax breaks is also being hashed out — separately but at the same time — and has aided in the delay of striking a spending deal.
Pelosi took a hard stance Friday against the tax extender package saying it must remain a separate package as Democrats in the House cannot support it calling it “really destructive for our future.”
The Senate returns to Washington Monday but will wait for the House to finish the year-long spending bill before they act. The House will return Tuesday afternoon.
“Members and staff from both parties are continuing their work on appropriations and on the tax relief measure,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., aid in a brief statement on the Senate floor Monday, “As we all know they've made a lot of progress in recent days.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also said that negotiators are “working hard,” but admitted “we’re not there yet.”
“Keeping the federal government open and funded is a Congressional responsibility, I'm confident we will fulfill that most basic Constitutional duty, it's just a question of when we do it,” Reid said on the Senate floor, “I hope that it's sooner rather than later.”
Negotiators have been working their way through several partisan issues that lawmakers on either side of the aisle are trying to have included in the omnibus — commonly called “riders.”
Democratic Leader Pelosi has been pushing to lift a nearly 20-year ban on the Centers for Disease Control to study the impact of gun violence.
“I think of it more as an incentive for democrats to vote for the bill,” Pelosi said Thursday about the rider, noting Republicans still have some “bad riders” in the bill.
Republicans are opposed to lifting the ban but there is some speculation a tradeoff might be made to lift it if Democrats agree to lifting the 40-year ban on exporting American crude oil.
Speaker Ryan’s office says he is opposed to removing the federal gun research ban but also he “won’t negotiate through the press.”
Several other riders being negotiated include extending healthcare to 9/11 first responders under the Zadroga Act, tightening the vetting of Syrian refugees and altering the Visa Waiver Program, plus several environmental provisions among others.
While the talks are still fluid, leadership aides on both sides say they remain hopeful that a deal will be reached before Congress is set to adjourn on December 18.