Architect of the Capitol

Spending Bill Remains Up in the Air as New Shutdown Deadline Approaches

The government is only funded through Wednesday, and the tax extenders deal is unfinished.

Con­gress man­aged to avoid a week­end ses­sion by passing a short-term spend­ing bill at the end of last week, but they headed home to their dis­tricts Fri­day with two ma­jor pieces of le­gis­la­tion still very much up in the air.

With a Wed­nes­day dead­line to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down, mem­bers of Con­gress still have not come to an agree­ment on how they’ll keep the doors open—nor have they reached a deal to make per­man­ent some favored tax breaks for busi­nesses and in­di­vidu­als. Con­gres­sion­al lead­ers and top tax ne­go­ti­at­ors planned to spend the week­end in Wash­ing­ton to hash out fi­nal deals on both pack­ages, with lead­er­ship hope­ful that an om­ni­bus and tax deal could be pos­ted in the House on Monday.

“Our pro­jec­tion is for the House to post an om­ni­bus on Monday and vote on it by Wed­nes­day,” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn told re­port­ers last week, em­phas­iz­ing that the om­ni­bus was not yet com­pleted.

At is­sue for the om­ni­bus spend­ing bill are sev­er­al policy riders pre­ferred by each party. Re­pub­lic­ans have vari­ously pushed to lift the ban on crude-oil ex­ports and to al­ter cam­paign fin­ance laws, while Demo­crats have pressed to pro­tect the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions and for ad­di­tion­al gun-re­stric­tion meas­ures. As ne­go­ti­at­ors con­tin­ue their talks through the week­end, lead­ers have re­mained mum about which policy riders are still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“I think there are a few out­stand­ing is­sues that have not been re­solved. But it’s kind of one of those things where noth­ing’s re­solved un­til everything’s re­solved,” Cornyn said Thursday.

The hope, Cornyn ad­ded, is that once the House passes the fund­ing bill—which could in­clude a tax deal—Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate can get a un­an­im­ous agree­ment to pass the bill that even­ing, avoid­ing the need for an­oth­er short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion.

Still, House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers said al­though the House ex­pects to post a fin­ished bill Monday, there could be a need for an­oth­er short-term spend­ing meas­ure to give the Sen­ate time to work through pro­ced­ur­al hurdles.

He said, as mem­bers were leav­ing the Cap­it­ol on Fri­day, that many of the out­stand­ing policy is­sues had been kicked up to lead­er­ship, so ap­pro­pri­at­ors were wait­ing for a deal to be cut so they can write the bill, have it scored by the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice, and post the text.

“Some of these things, the big policy ques­tions, of course, will be dealt with by the lead­er­ship,” he said. “The run-of-the-mill ap­pro­pri­ations stuff, we’ll take that up when lead­er­ship deals with the policy is­sues.”

There are still sev­er­al is­sues left to re­solve for Con­gress to pass a tax deal as well. Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee chair­man Or­rin Hatch said Thursday that he would stay in Wash­ing­ton through the week­end to try to get a lar­ger deal on tax ex­tenders, but sug­ges­ted that ne­go­ti­at­ors may soon have to move on to a two-year ex­ten­sion of cur­rent policy if a lar­ger deal can’t be made.

“Both sides are do­ing their very best to get the is­sues that are as good for their side as they can and that’s what’s hap­pen­ing now,” Hatch said Thursday. “But soon we’ll come up against the wall of hav­ing to act and I think when that hap­pens, hope­fully we’ll get this done. I can live with the two-year pro­gram.”

Hatch was wary about dis­cuss­ing de­tails of the po­ten­tial, lar­ger deal with the press, but did say that any pack­age he would ac­cept would in­clude a re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s risk cor­ridors pro­vi­sion, of­ten re­ferred to by Re­pub­lic­ans as bail­out money for in­sur­ance com­pan­ies.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said she was op­tim­ist­ic Con­gress would pass the om­ni­bus be­fore the dead­line, but said her caucus will firmly op­pose the lar­ger tax ex­tender pack­age—even if it’s rolled in­to the om­ni­bus. “I don’t see very much sup­port on the Demo­crat­ic side for the tax-ex­tender bill,” she said. “It’s a massive, per­man­ent giveaway—[an] un­paid-for tax-ex­tender pack­age, which is really de­struct­ive. …  I wouldn’t vote for it, and I wouldn’t re­com­mend that any­body else vote for it.”

The size of a fi­nal tax pack­age is a con­cern for many Demo­crats throughout the Cap­it­ol, par­tic­u­larly be­cause many of the tax breaks that would be made per­man­ent are not fully paid for. But Hatch ar­gued Thursday that by fo­cus­ing on the size of the deal, Demo­crats are miss­ing many policy vic­tor­ies for both parties made pos­sible by a lar­ger agree­ment. “It’d be really stu­pid for the Demo­crats to not take the full [deal] … be­cause both sides are treated pretty fairly,” Hatch said. “The Demo­crats are treated well and we are too. It’s a clas­sic com­prom­ise that really de­serves to be done.”

Pelosi has been push­ing to end a long­time ban that pre­vents the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion from re­search­ing gun vi­ol­ence as a part of the year-end ne­go­ti­ations. Ac­cord­ing to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Pelosi asked and re­ceived per­mis­sion from her caucus to make it a top ne­go­ti­at­ing pri­or­ity. On Fri­day, Pelosi said Re­pub­lic­ans should view the meas­ure as a sweeten­er to get Demo­crats on board with the om­ni­bus. “You want our votes; here is a way to get them,” she said. Still, Demo­crats have giv­en no in­dic­a­tion they would be will­ing to kill an om­ni­bus deal that did not in­clude the pro­vi­sion.

An­oth­er big ques­tion is wheth­er the year-end spend­ing and tax deal will lift the ban on crude oil ex­ports. End­ing the 1970s-era re­stric­tions is a pri­or­ity for Re­pub­lic­ans and the oil in­dustry (and some con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp).

Demo­crats have signaled that they’re open to lift­ing the ban in re­turn for a big list of GOP con­ces­sions, such as al­low­ing long-term ex­ten­sions of re­new­able elec­tri­city tax breaks and drop­ping “riders” that would thwart Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion en­vir­on­ment­al rules. And Delaware Demo­crat Tom Carp­er is push­ing for tax breaks for re­finers who would face high­er costs if the ban is lif­ted.

It’s un­clear if there’s a polit­ic­al sweet spot to be found. Dick Durbin, the Sen­ate’s No. 2 Demo­crat, says the White House has been a “ma­jor ne­go­ti­at­or” on the oil-ban rider. That sug­gests that while the White House has pre­vi­ously threatened to veto House le­gis­la­tion that man­dates re­mov­al of the ban, there may be room for com­prom­ise if Demo­crats can get enough in re­turn.

Alex BrownAlex RogersBen Geman and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this article.