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Agreement Scarce Over Appropriations Methods

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Jeff Flake, an appropriator, has led the charge that leaders should cut spending more deeply and pursue an open process on spending bills. The Congressman said using an omnibus would provide “less incoming fire.”

But some House GOP conservatives appear wary of waging war over an omnibus and will instead make a stand over keeping an open rule for any appropriations measure.

Flake is circulating a letter praising Boehner for the "considerable strides" the House has made under the Speaker's leadership "in returning the appropriations process to an open process."

"Unfortunately, apparently out of necessity, talk has reportedly turned to finishing the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations process with either an omnibus or several so-called 'mini-buses,'" the letter says. "We write to strongly urge that any legislation making appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2012 be brought to the floor under a process allowing for amendments under an open rule."

"An open House has been his hallmark, and it's a good one," Flake said this week, regarding Boehner.

GOP leadership offices, asked about their embrace of the omnibus, pinned blame on the Senate's schedule.

When asked about whether the Speaker supports an omnibus approach, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: "Boehner has made it clear that how we spend taxpayers' money deserves the utmost scrutiny, and the House did a good job passing appropriations bills under an unprecedented open process this year. Since the Senate Democratic leaders failed to pass a budget or the bulk of the appropriations bills, we will have to look at other options."

Senators have their own festering conflicts that could imperil that chamber's passage of the remaining appropriations bills.

The three-bill minibus package will probably draw a large number of amendments, but Senate leaders hope to work out an agreement on which ones will get votes so as not to have consideration of the package take too much time, according to Democratic and Republican aides.

McConnell, after the Senate GOP weekly lunch Wednesday, said he expects the bills to be open for amendment and to pass the Senate.

"We should be able to move those three appropriations bills across the floor," McConnell said. "I expect most Members on both sides are going to be voting for them."

Consideration of the package comes after Democrats and Republicans squared off last week over Republican efforts to offer amendments to a bill that would crack down on Chinese currency manipulation.

The standoff resulted in Senate Democrats voting by a simple majority to close off one option the minority had to try to change legislation after cloture is invoked.

But a Republicans aide said as long as they have an opportunity to amend the measures, they plan to cooperate on the spending bills.

If an agreement on amendments can't be reached, Senate Democrats could file cloture on the package in order to bring it to a vote.

But it's not guaranteed that Republican appropriators who backed the bill in committee would vote to cut off debate if it comes to that.

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