Spending Bill Remains Up in the Air

Architect of the Capitol

Wel­come to the week in Con­gress that al­most wasn’t.

With the om­ni­bus spend­ing bill and a ma­jor tax deal still up in the air, the House and Sen­ate re­turn to Wash­ing­ton this week, delay­ing a planned hol­i­day va­ca­tion un­til at least Wed­nes­day, when the cur­rent con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion ex­pires.

While lead­er­ship sorts out a fi­nal deal on an end-of-year spend­ing bill, mem­bers will be watch­ing a series of policy riders that could make or break the agree­ment. Here’s what they’ll be keep­ing an eye on and how mem­bers will fill their fi­nal week in Wash­ing­ton this year:

EN­ERGY

All eyes will be on the fi­nal om­ni­bus pack­age to see if Re­pub­lic­ans were able to craft a deal to get a long-awaited re­peal of the na­tion’s ban on crude-oil ex­ports in­to the om­ni­bus fund­ing bill.

Mean­while, a House Nat­ur­al Re­sources sub­com­mit­tee will lit­er­ally dig deep in­to the is­sue of min­ing edu­ca­tion with a field hear­ing in an un­der­ground classroom in Idaho Springs, Col­or­ado. Mem­bers of the En­ergy and Min­er­al Re­sources Sub­com­mit­tee will con­sider the bi­par­tis­an Min­ing Schools En­hance­ment Act, which looks to boost min­ing edu­ca­tion in the face of a po­ten­tial work­er short­fall in the in­dustry.

HEALTH

It’s crunch time for law­makers hop­ing to in­clude at least two Obama­care tax delays in an om­ni­bus or tax-ex­tenders pack­age. Ne­go­ti­ations are still in flux. Yet, there are talks to in­clude a delay of the Ca­dillac tax and med­ic­al-device tax, and these delays could be ad­ded to a two-year ex­tender pack­age.

Last week, House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Kev­in Brady said law­makers were “strongly con­sid­er­ing” adding the tax delays on to the two-year pack­age. Delay­ing the Ca­dillac tax, which would be levied on ex­pens­ive em­ploy­er-sponsored plans start­ing in 2018, has wide sup­port in both cham­bers. A full re­peal of the tax on the re­con­cili­ation bill soared through the Sen­ate in a 90-to-10 vote earli­er this month (and be­cause Pres­id­ent Obama is cer­tain to veto the bill re­peal­ing ma­jor pro­vi­sions of his sig­na­ture health law, mem­bers are try­ing to get a delay through dur­ing the end-of-the-year blitz).

Ad­di­tion­ally, the le­gis­la­tion to re­new health care be­ne­fits for 9/11 first-re­spon­ders is caught in the om­ni­bus and tax-ex­tenders de­bate. Ad­voc­ates and some law­makers are push­ing hard for the act to be in either one, and House Speak­er Paul Ry­an has “com­mit­ted to reau­thor­ize the pro­gram, and he will keep his word,” his spokes­wo­man, Ash­Lee Strong, said in an emailed state­ment Thursday. “We ex­pect it will be in­cluded in one of the year-end le­gis­lat­ive items.”

At a Thursday press con­fer­ence, Sen. Chuck Schu­mer said where the Za­d­roga Act fits de­pends on how the ne­go­ti­ations go. Re­pub­lic­ans are look­ing for pay-fors if the le­gis­la­tion is to be in­cluded in the om­ni­bus, the Sen­ate’s No. 3 Demo­crat said, but if pay-fors can’t be found, then mem­bers will push for it to be in the tax-ex­tenders bill.

“Every­body’s for it. It’s go­ing to be in­cluded,” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell said in an in­ter­view withPolitico.

TECH­NO­LOGY

Con­gres­sion­al ne­go­ti­at­ors are near­ing a deal on le­gis­la­tion that aims to bol­ster the na­tion’s de­fenses against hack­ers. The Sen­ate passed its own cy­ber­se­cur­ity bill in Oc­to­ber, and the House passed two re­lated bills earli­er in the year; the cham­bers are now try­ing to agree to one com­pre­hens­ive piece of le­gis­la­tion. The le­gis­la­tion would en­cour­age com­pan­ies and the gov­ern­ment to share in­form­a­tion about cy­ber­at­tacks, but pri­vacy ad­voc­ates warn it could fun­nel sens­it­ive per­son­al in­form­a­tion in­to the hands of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency. A House aide said law­makers have agreed on the main is­sues and ex­pect a vote be­fore the end of the year.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion will hold its monthly meet­ing on Thursday, when it will con­sider a pro­pos­al to stream­line reg­u­la­tions for satel­lites and an­oth­er to scrap cer­tain reg­u­la­tions on loc­al phone com­pan­ies.

WHITE HOUSE

This is get­away week for Pres­id­ent Obama. Or at least it will be if Con­gress and world events co­oper­ate so that on Fri­day he can head with his fam­ily to Hawaii for the hol­i­days. He has a light pub­lic sched­ule be­fore that, with a trip to the Pentagon for a coun­terter­ror­ism brief­ing set for Monday. Tues­day, he will at­tend a nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion ce­re­mony at the Na­tion­al Archives. On Thursday, there will be an­oth­er ter­ror­ism brief­ing away from the White House when he goes to the Na­tion­al Coun­terter­ror­ism Cen­ter in McLean. The NCTC is the cen­ter for joint op­er­a­tion­al plan­ning and joint in­tel­li­gence.

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