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"It's sort of hard to live with the spending levels if we don't have any riders at all," Mulvaney said.
The problem for Boehner is that a rider-laden spending bill won't pass the Senate. Stripping out some riders will likely cost him Republican votes, meaning he could be forced to rely on Democrats. But to get them, he'll need to strip even more amendments, losing more Republicans. The struggle will bring with it the now-familiar bracing for a government shutdown.
"I think passing the omnibus or minibuses is going to be a challenge. Getting the votes for it is going to be a challenge," Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) said.
Campbell said breaking up the appropriations bills into minibuses could provide flexibility.
"Sometimes you can break a bill into three and get a different coalition. For example, look at the trade agreements that just passed. There's a whole different coalition that voted for the agreements than voted for the TAA," Campbell said, referring to last week's passage of trade deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, as well as Trade Adjustment Assistance.
But as long as there are riders, Democrats are unlikely to join any of those coalitions.
"Absolutely not," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Thursday, charging the demand for riders is "one more countless example of how they don't understand the No. 1 issue is jobs and the economy. People don't want legislation that controls their personal life."
John Stanton contributed to this report.