Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Spending Bills Unlikely to Hit a Snag

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has accused Republicans of “holding hostage” a payroll tax cut extension, but she has not used such rhetoric to describe progress on appropriations bills.

That’s not to say there’s a large margin for error. The GOP risks losing conservatives if the bill doesn’t stress their priorities, and Democrats could sink the bill if they think it goes too far. The most contentious bills — those funding environmental and health programs — could be presented as continuing resolutions.

Rep. Steven LaTourette, an appropriator, nonetheless was upbeat before leaving the Capitol on Friday.

“I think things are going to be fine,” the Ohio Republican said. “We’re going to produce a product this week that most Members are going to be able to vote on, and we’re going to get a lot of Democrats, because we have come back to regular order and we have actually included the Democrats in the process.”

In the Senate, aides agreed the fight over the extenders package had cleared the way for easier approval of the appropriations bills, if the House can pass them.

Aides said they hoped to clear the appropriations legislation swiftly. But the good feelings about keeping the government open were overshadowed by the intensifying exenders fight, which would also head off a steep cut in reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

House Republicans unveiled their extenders plan Friday. In addition to the pipeline and health care provisions, the package would roll back Environmental Protection Agency regulations and extend a pay freeze for federal workers through fiscal 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement Friday that the House plan wouldn’t fly.

“If the House sends us their bill with Keystone in it, they are just wasting valuable time because it will not pass the Senate,” Reid said.

Another stumbling block is unemployment insurance.

The GOP bill includes changes to the system, along the lines of those passed by the House Ways and Means Committee this year.

They include requiring recipients to be in a GED program if they do not have a high school degree, participate in re-employment programs, and actively search for work. The bill also would increase states’ flexibility to “test and evaluate innovative state-based solutions” and allow states to make eligibility contingent on drug testing.

Democrats have expressed openness to some changes, particularly if they were similar to those outlined by President Barack Obama when he released his jobs legislation over the summer.

But even some Senate Republican aides conceded there is not enough time to find consensus on a larger overhaul of the unemployment insurance system before the end of the year.

The White House continued to attack the Republican bill but without formally guaranteeing a veto — or declaring a bottom line on what the president can support.

“We keep working towards a solution,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “We are open to looking at other ways to pay for this, but they have to be economically responsible, and fair.”

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