With a dwindling calendar in the lame-duck session to finish legislative business, House Democrats are expected to get the ball rolling next week by trying to pass a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, Democratic and Republican congressional sources said.
If approved by the House, the package would go to the Senate, where Democrats would seek to attach an omnibus spending measure being drafted by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the sources said.
The package could also serve as a legislative vehicle for a possible deal on extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and other legislative priorities.
"It's an option, but no decision has been made," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
According to a senior Democratic member on the House Appropriations Committee, "Next week we are going to pass a long-term CR, send it to the Senate and they will act on it. Either they will put the omnibus on it or" adopt the long-term CR.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also indicated Thursday that he is waiting for the House to send the year-long CR to the Senate. House Democratic leaders "are trying to determine when they're going to send us a long-term CR," Reid said.
Talk of House and Senate action on a year-long CR comes after Senate Republicans on Wednesday wrote Reid, pledging to block any legislation from coming to the Senate floor until the chamber dealt with extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and funding the government.
On Thursday, Inouye said that he was still working on the omnibus spending bill, which would package all 12 annual appropriations bills into one piece of legislation. But he will need a few Republican senators to back the bill in order to overcome any likely filibusters or procedural hurdles.
Asked if he has the required votes to pass the package, he said, "we don't know."
Most observers, including several lawmakers, believe that fiscal year 2011 spending will be provided for in a CR and not an omnibus.
Inouye's push for an omnibus got a bit harder when earlier this month Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would oppose Democratic plans for an omnibus package, a signal that Republicans will likely not support the package and force Democrats to instead consider a continuing resolution. McConnell upped the ante this week when he spearheaded the letter to Reid, lining up all 42 Republican senators.
Inouye also said he is not considering dropping earmarks from the omnibus package, which has complicated support for it. In a political climate that has been dominated by tea party-infused anger at Washington spending, opposition to earmarks has been growing among both the Republicans and Democrats. Both the House and Senate Republican caucuses have pledged not to pursue earmarks.
The Senate is expected to clear before the end of the week a roughly two-week extension of the current CR, which expires Friday. The extension, which was passed by the House Wednesday, would expire Dec. 18 and give lawmakers additional time to finish work on the fiscal 2011 spending legislation and other legislative goals.
Dan Friedman contributed to this report.