Partisan clashes delay spending bill
By Derek Robertson
Democrats, Republicans and the White House battled late into the night Monday and into Tuesday over whether to include provisions on President Donald Trump’s border wall, a massive New York infrastructure project and the special counsel‘s Russia investigation, according to lawmakers and aides in both parties.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told his conference that he is planning to pass the massive, $1.3 trillion omnibus on Thursday, according to House Republicans. That would give the Senate just a day to pass the bill before government funding runs out on Friday evening — allowing for any one senator to shut the government down briefly. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) caused such a shutdown last month in protest over a budget deal.
Congressional leaders had hoped to file the bill, which would fund the government through the end of September, on Monday night with a House vote on Wednesday.
"The speaker said it was basically an artificial deadline last night," Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said. "We don't have to get it posted until today. To work against an artificial deadline would have been a mistake."
But Congress is bogged down over policy provisions that various congressional factions are trying to attach to the must-pass bill. Many lawmakers view the legislation as their last chance to get their priorities signed into law before the midterm elections.
"It has some things no one like, and it has a lot of things not everybody likes but most people like. It was a fair compromise," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of the budget agreement that set up the work on the omnibus. "It was a fair compromise, the basic structure of it, and hopefully we can get an agreement."
Lawmakers and aides estimated there were as many as 20 provisions still being debated. One of the most controversial is $900 million in funding for the Gateway tunnel project in New York, a key priority of Schumer and New York-area Republicans and Democrats. Schumer and GOP leaders were still battling over the provision as of Tuesday morning; Trump has told Republicans he will veto a bill that funds Gateway.
And though talks to protect young immigrants facing deportation fell apart over the weekend, congressional Democrats are pushing to freeze hiring of immigration enforcement officials in return for providing Trump more than $1 billion in funding on his border wall. Democrats are open to providing some money for border security but are pressing for concessions from the GOP, according to aides.
Congressional Democrats also pushed provisions to protect special counsel Robert Mueller but have been rebuffed by GOP leaders. An attempt to shore up Obamacare's insurance markets is also stalled in a battle over abortion. Lawmakers believe neither of those provisions will be in the omnibus.
GOP leaders also are pressing to include popular legislation that would improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for firearms purchases. But Democrats want a broader gun debate and conservatives believe it would make it more difficult for some veterans to buy a gun, which could keep that provision out as well.
"There are still some key questions. There's a NICS question, there's an Internet sales tax question, there‘s [an Obamacare] question. There's a Gateway project financing question," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a conservative leader. "It looks like a lot of those things aren't gonna be in it, which is a good step, but it still spends way too much money."
Kyle Cheney and Quint Forgey contributed to this report.