With a government shutdown approaching, House Republicans may try to force Senate Democrats into a corner on year-end legislation by bringing an omnibus spending bill to the floor Friday and daring them to oppose it.
The move would be an attempt to undercut Democrats' strategy of refusing to formally sign off on the spending bill until Republicans and Democrats can reach agreement on an extension of President Barack Obama's payroll tax holiday.
As House Republicans contemplated their next steps, Senate Democrats appeared poised to offer a payroll tax deal in which they would drop their insistence on a millionaires' tax in exchange for the GOP agreeing to abandon its push for a controversial oil pipeline, among other things.
House GOP appropriations conferees have signed off on the omnibus conference report, Republicans say, and are waiting for their Democratic counterparts to do so.
Democrats have said there are still outstanding issues to be resolved before the spending deal is final.
At a two-hour Republican Conference meeting Wednesday, Members discussed voting on a stand-alone bill that mimics the conference report to which they say Democrats have already agreed.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) predicted after the meeting that the chamber could pass the new spending measure and send it to the Senate before the current federal funding runs out Friday.
"We would pass the bill, send it over there; that should end it," he said. "That's on Friday, and the deadline is Friday night, and the Senate has a chance to stop a government shutdown."
About 30 Members spoke in the meeting, including Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio), who spoke in support of forcing the spending bill to the floor, according to sources in the room. To comply with their three-day rule in the "Pledge to America," Republicans would have had to file such a measure before midnight Wednesday.
Exiting the meeting, however, Speaker John Boehner rebuffed questions about whether he would bring the bill to the floor. The Ohio Republican instead said the Senate should not hold up the appropriations bills in order to extract concessions on a House-passed package, including a payroll tax cut extension and other measures.
"I'm tired of hearing what the Senate can't do," Boehner said. "The House has done its work. It's time for the Senate to do theirs. We've got an agreement in a bipartisan way on the appropriations process to fund the government. There's no reason for it to be held hostage to give leverage to one side or the other."