House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., left, and Rep. Nita Lowey, R-NY, right, testify before the House Rules Committee in 2013.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., left, and Rep. Nita Lowey, R-NY, right, testify before the House Rules Committee in 2013. AP file photo

As Shutdown Clock Ticks, Parties Trade Barbs Over Omnibus

Neither House Democrats nor Republicans believe the other side is making good-faith efforts to reach a deal.

Nine days from a gov­ern­ment shut­down, Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats are trad­ing ac­cus­a­tions faster than le­gis­lat­ive of­fers, as ne­go­ti­at­ors hope to get talks back on track to pass a massive om­ni­bus ap­pro­pri­ations spend­ing bill and fund the gov­ern­ment past Dec. 11.

House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers sug­ges­ted that Demo­crats are slow-walk­ing the pro­cess and noted that as of Wed­nes­day even­ing, he has not heard back from his coun­ter­parts after send­ing them an ini­tial of­fer Tues­day even­ing.

“The ball is in their court. We sent them last night a glob­al bill and we’ve not heard any­thing back,” Ro­gers said. “When we ne­go­ti­ate in good faith, we can get things done, and I’ve not seen that yet.”

Demo­crats, however, said the GOP of­fer was any­thing but a good-faith ef­fort. Demo­crats de­cried riders deal­ing with Wall Street, en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions, and Syr­i­an refugees.

Rep. Nita Lowey, the rank­ing mem­ber on the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee and a key Demo­crat­ic ne­go­ti­at­or, said she had ini­tially been op­tim­ist­ic about the talks but was dis­mayed by the ini­tial GOP pro­pos­al. “Their of­fer wasn’t real,” she said. “We couldn’t ac­cept it. They know we couldn’t ac­cept it.”

Demo­crats are work­ing on a blue­print of their own that they planned to re­lease as soon as Wed­nes­day even­ing, she ad­ded. “We are present­ing a coun­ter­of­fer that we think is real, and if they don’t want to shut down the gov­ern­ment, and if they do want to get our sup­port, then they will sit down and work on a fi­nal pro­pos­al, and I hope that time will come be­fore Dec. 11.”

Part of the is­sue hold­ing up the pro­cess is that House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi is fa­cing pres­sure from her mem­bers not to give too much. Pro­gress­ives were en­cour­aged by Pelosi’s pub­lic re­jec­tion of the GOP plan, be­liev­ing that it’s a sign she’s taken to heart their con­cerns that Demo­crat­ic de­fect­ors have en­abled Re­pub­lic­ans to pass harm­ful riders in past ne­go­ti­ations that have slowly chipped away at some of their pri­or­it­ies, par­tic­u­larly in the fin­an­cial and en­vir­on­ment­al sec­tors.

“It’s a creep­ing strategy, and it’s an ef­fect­ive one that the Re­pub­lic­ans have used,” said Rep. Raul Gri­jalva, co­chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gress­ive Caucus. “Look, we just can’t as a caucus con­tin­ue to say, ‘vote your own con­science’, be­cause it’s get­ting to the point where we’re in a corner.”

Re­pub­lic­ans, however, see it dif­fer­ently. To them, rais­ing the over­all fund­ing levels that had been capped by se­quest­ra­tion was already a move to­ward Demo­crats. Now, in­stead of passing a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion at those se­quest­ra­tion levels, Re­pub­lic­ans are ask­ing for le­gis­lat­ive riders to en­tice GOP votes for a bill that es­sen­tially raises fed­er­al spend­ing.

“There’s a little bit of bluff­ing go­ing on, but there’s also an ef­fort to find what you really can’t give on and what can you really give on,” Re­pub­lic­an ap­pro­pri­at­or Tom Cole said. “From our stand­point, they’ve got­ten a vic­tory on the money side, we gave on that. Time for you to give something.”

Con­gres­sion­al ne­go­ti­at­ors are still hope­ful that text of a fi­nal om­ni­bus bill could be re­leased by Monday and the le­gis­la­tion passed by the Dec. 11 dead­line, des­pite the un­usu­al pub­lic spat over private ne­go­ti­ations. But time is run­ning short.

Re­pub­lic­ans will meet privately Thursday to dis­cuss the om­ni­bus ne­go­ti­ations. Among the out­stand­ing is­sues spur­ring in­terest on both sides is one that came to light after the IS­IS at­tacks in Par­is last month. GOP ne­go­ti­at­ors in­cluded in their ini­tial of­fer a meas­ure to tight­en the vet­ting pro­cess on Syr­i­an refugees and re­quire sign-off on each refugee by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. An identic­al bill passed the House last month, but Demo­crat­ic lead­ers have de­cried it, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued a veto threat. Still, many Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve that since 47 Demo­crats voted for the bill, it should be im­possible for them to call it a pois­on pill.

“I think the bill we have is reas­on­able,” Cole said. “We didn’t try to put in re­li­gious tests. We just said, ‘Tell us it’s safe.’ And if you’re not will­ing to put your fin­ger­prints on that, then we shouldn’t be let­ting some­body in.”

The GOP may be able to at­tract some cross-aisle sup­port. Rep. Ger­ald Con­nolly con­ceded that he, as well as the oth­er Demo­crats who voted for refugee le­gis­la­tion two weeks ago, would find it dif­fi­cult to make that a reas­on to vote against the om­ni­bus.

But be­hind the scenes, Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers and aides are en­ter­tain­ing the pos­sib­il­ity that the fi­nal le­gis­la­tion could pass without the refugee meas­ure. Mem­bers and staff have in­stead been set­ting their sights on tight­en­ing bor­der con­trols on those trav­el­ing from visa-waiver coun­tries—either in the om­ni­bus or as a stand-alone bill as soon as next week.

The same may end up be­ing true for meas­ures sought by Re­pub­lic­ans to re­strict fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood. Some Re­pub­lic­ans had been push­ing lead­ers to in­clude a meas­ure that would al­low states to send money ap­pro­pri­ated for Planned Par­ent­hood to oth­er com­munity health clin­ics. But Planned Par­ent­hood was left out of Re­pub­lic­ans’ first of­fer.

That could irk some con­ser­vat­ives who only months ago pushed lead­ers to try to strip fed­er­al fund­ing from the or­gan­iz­a­tion, but it does make clear that House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers do not ex­pect to pass a bill with only GOP votes. That comes des­pite as­ser­tions from House con­ser­vat­ives that they could be per­suaded to sup­port an om­ni­bus if cer­tain riders are in­cluded.

“The ques­tion is this, what would it take to get to yes?” House Free­dom Caucus mem­ber Mick Mul­vaney said. “There are some of us who voted against Ry­an-Mur­ray three years ago, but for the om­ni­bus that grew out of Ry­an-Mur­ray be­cause of the riders.”

But Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers re­cog­nize that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has singled out the Planned Par­ent­hood riders as ob­jec­tion­able sev­er­al times, and would be un­likely to sign a bill tar­get­ing the agency. Re­pub­lic­ans have oth­er av­en­ues to ad­dress the is­sue, with the House re­cently em­pan­el­ing a spe­cial com­mit­tee to in­vest­ig­ate Planned Par­ent­hood and the Sen­ate tar­get­ing the or­gan­iz­a­tion in its re­con­cili­ation pack­age that will also seek to re­peal Obama­care.

Mean­while, the bill con­tin­ues a long­stand­ing an­ti­abor­tion rider that re­stricts the use of some fed­er­al fund­ing for the pro­ced­ure, bar­ring cases of in­cest and rape or if the life of the moth­er is in jeop­ardy. Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bill Flores said that should be enough for many Re­pub­lic­ans.

“There are oth­er pro-life pro­vi­sions that are OK,” Flores said. “We’re about pro­tect­ing life. It doesn’t have to say ‘Planned Par­ent­hood’ on it; so as long as we have pro-life pro­vi­sions, we’re fine.”

Alex Brown contributed to this article.

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