Architect of the Capitol

Visa-Waiver Deal Could Smooth Path for an Omnibus Bill to Avoid Shutdown

The agreement on visas may ease some pressure on negotiators, though plenty of thorny issues remain.

House lead­ers an­nounced a deal Thursday to tight­en re­stric­tions on tour­ists from cer­tain coun­tries who travel to the United States without a visa, in an ef­fort to avoid a pos­sible ter­ror­ist at­tack sim­il­ar to the one car­ried out in Par­is last month.

The deal al­le­vi­ates some pres­sure on ne­go­ti­at­ors try­ing to ham­mer out a sweep­ing spend­ing deal to fund the gov­ern­ment by Dec. 11. Re­pub­lic­ans had pushed to in­clude a House-passed bill tight­en­ing entry re­quire­ments on Syr­i­an refugees, but Demo­crats countered late Wed­nes­day night with an of­fer of their own that did not in­clude that bill.

The visa-waiver deal means two of the most con­ten­tious is­sues hold­ing up a gov­ern­ment fund­ing agree­ment could be off the table: Re­pub­lic­ans’ of­fer did not in­clude lan­guage tar­get­ing Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing, and now many mem­bers and staff can move past the Syr­i­an refugee is­sue by vot­ing on the visa-waiver pro­gram in­stead.

The visa-waiver bill will be voted on next week, al­though there is still a chance it could be fol­ded in­to the om­ni­bus spend­ing bill, which must be passed by Dec.11 to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Demo­crats are be­hind the visa-waiver plan. “I’m hope­ful that will be brought up next week and will have all of our sup­port,” she said. “The bill that came to­geth­er is a bill that has bi­par­tis­an agree­ment and I be­lieve will have the sig­na­ture of the White House.”

She said she would not fa­vor try­ing to in­clude it in the om­ni­bus, not­ing that many mem­bers who oth­er­wise sup­port the visa-waiver le­gis­la­tion would be forced to vote against it if it were tied to a con­tro­ver­sial fund­ing plan. But she stopped short of say­ing she would urge her caucus to vote against a pack­age deal.

Of course, sev­er­al is­sues are still on the table. Re­pub­lic­ans in­cluded meas­ures in their first of­fer that would roll back fin­an­cial and en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions, al­though what spe­cif­ic riders they in­cluded has not been re­vealed.

Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers has been keep­ing his cards close to his chest. He was ques­tioned in a Thursday morn­ing meet­ing of House Re­pub­lic­ans about what spe­cific­ally was in the pack­age, but re­fused to an­swer, ac­cord­ing to a source in the room. Later Thursday, he told re­port­ers that he and his staff are re­view­ing Demo­crats’ coun­ter­of­fer, but he had little more to say.

“We’ve looked it over,” Ro­gers said. “All of these things are un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. I can’t really char­ac­ter­ize any­thing at this point.”

Pelosi also offered few de­tails on the Demo­crats’ of­fer, oth­er than to char­ac­ter­ize it as more ser­i­ous than the GOP’s first salvo. “This is a tea-party policy wish list with an ap­pro­pri­ations bill as an ad­dendum to it,” she said. But she ad­ded that the Re­pub­lic­an plan may just be a short-lived at­tempt to show con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers that the lead­ers un­der­stand their policy pri­or­it­ies.

“I al­ways have a spir­it of op­tim­ism that we will get this done,” Pelosi said. “They have to do what they have to do for cer­tain reas­ons in their caucus. At some point they will live up to their re­spons­ib­il­ity to do what we all need to do for the Amer­ic­an people.”

Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy said on the House floor Thursday that it is pos­sible a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion could be needed to give both cham­bers more time to wrap up ne­go­ti­ations. But he ad­ded that he would bring one up “only if ne­ces­sary. I’d rather get it done by the 11th.”

“Wrap­ping up le­gis­lat­ive busi­ness in Decem­ber is al­ways un­pre­dict­able,” he said. “It’s our in­ten­tion to get it done in the dead­line. If we have to move a few days later, we shall.”