Congressional leaders plan to unveil a 2016 funding bill on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, after passing a five-day short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The omnibus spending bill Congress will unveil is linked to extending tax breaks. To give themselves extra time to finalize negotiations and the appropriations bills, the Senate passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday, Dec. 10 that gives Congress five days, until Dec. 16 to pass the spending bill for the 2016 fiscal year. The House voted on the bill on Friday, Dec. 11 and President Barack Obama will sign it to prevent a government shutdown Friday at midnight.
To avert a government shutdown, the Senate approved a short-term spending bill on Thursday, Dec. 10. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the bill passed by unanimous consent. Instead of keeping in session on Friday, the Senate voted before the House on the bill based on “House-passed funding legislation that was already on the Senate calendar.” On Friday, Dec 11, the House passed the Senate’s short-term spending bill by a voice vote. By passing the short-term bill, Republican are keeping their promise of “No more government shutdowns.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tweeted on Thursday that President Obama would sign the legislation. The White House and the president previously said he would not sign any more short-term stop-gap measures. Earnest wrote, “He’ll sign only to give Congress enough time to pass a budget; GOP must drop ideological riders & compromise.”
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) spoke to reporters on Thursday, Dec. 10 announcing the spending bill deal. Cornyn said, “I understand the current projection is for the House to post the omnibus Monday and vote on it by Wednesday. The goal is to wrap things up by Wednesday evening.”
Speaking about extending tax breaks, Sen. Cornyn explained, “They seem to be linked, although I can’t tell you whether it will be one vote or two votes, but clearly they’re part of the overall negotiations.” Cornyn warned, however, that not everything has been negotiated and finalized, “there are a few outstanding issues that have not been resolved.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also spoke to the press saying, “sooner or later we come against the wall of having to act, and I think when that happens hopefully when that happens we can get this done. … I think it’s a matter of days.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was not nearly as optimistic as the Senate’s Republican leaders. Ryan “distanced” himself from the spending bill and budget deal his predecessor John Boehner, R-OH negotiated right before he resigned. Ryan told the press, “this is something I more or less inherited from the last regime, and I don’t want to rush things through here.”
Ryan is not sure the omnibus bill will be passed by the new Dec. 16 deadline imposed by the new short-term spending bill. The speaker said, “I don’t think it would be right to say what date we’re going to be done by because I want to make sure that these negotiations are done well and done right, and not by some arbitrary deadline.” GOP aides revealed on Friday morning that negotiations were “still fluid.”
Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming also does not see the short-term bill’s next end date Dec. 16 as a solid deadline, he believes it could e extended again, and Congress can stay in session until Christmas to complete the negotiations and pass the omnibus spending bill. Fleming commented, “We’re not going to let a deadline be our enemy in this. We’re not going to let Democrats jam us with hard deadlines — these are all artificial deadlines. We can stay in session all the way through Christmas.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) also seemed to imply the Omnibus’ text would be released later than Monday. Rogers said there was “good progress,” but “there are still many moving pieces.” Chairman Rogers believes, “At this point, it is, unfortunately, necessary for us to have a little more time to complete our negotiations.”
Another indication that House wants more time on the spending bill is that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scheduled the first votes for Tuesday evening. House leaders want to give members three days to read the massive omnibus-spending bill. Optimistically, even if Congressional leaders unveil the bill on Monday, the House would not vote on it until Wednesday, the earliest.
Even if the Senate moves fast, there are bound to be “procedural hurdles.” With Wednesday, Dec. 16 the new deadline, another short-term spending bill will be necessary to give Congress even more time to complete their task, perhaps even another week. Congressional leaders are hopeful the members will want to leave for the Christmas holidays and would speed up the process.
At the heart of the stand still on the bill is the addition or exclusion of certain policy “riders” to be added to the “$1.1 trillion spending bill and nearly $900 billion tax package.” Members look to add riders, because the spending bill is a must-pass, and President Obama would not veto it. Most of these riders would never reach the president’s desk otherwise.
Some of the outstanding issues still being negotiated on are Republicans want to block President Obama plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees and would require they be certified before entering the United States. Democrats want a ban lifted to allow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention research the impact of gun violence as a public health threat. Republicans also want to increase the amount wealthy donors can finance campaigns. Both parties oppose the other side’s planned riders, but in the end, they will have to compromise and pass the appropriations bill before the Christmas holiday.