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House Scrambling To Meet Deadlines, Go Home For Christmas

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republican leaders are steeling themselves to shepherd delicate negotiations as lawmakers brace for possible weekend work to resolve stark differences on a year-end spending bill.  

On Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters the House would pass a short-term continuing resolution to buy Congress more time to reach consensus on policy riders in the omnibus. This happened just as the House Freedom Caucus urged leadership to pass a six-week CR so talks wouldn't be so rushed. "We've had conversations with Paul already about that," said HFC Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. "A lot of times when deadlines come around here, we don't always like the decisions that get made."  

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said at a news conference that Congress will pass an omnibus spending bill before departing for the year.  

A short-term CR “will be a handful of days,” he said. “We don’t expect to do this for a long term.”  

Wondering what a continuing resolution is? Here's David Hawkings to draw it out:

Separately, Ryan said that he promised his members he wouldn't bring the omnibus to the floor for a vote without following the Republicans' "three day rule." That rule is designed to give members enough time to read legislation but is typically flouted as deadlines lurk.  

The gesture would give Ryan credibility with conservatives who have criticized prior leadership configurations for not being transparent. But it will inevitably give lawmakers more time to nitpick and grandstand as the clock ticks down to Christmas.  

Here's the latest:

Hoyer wants clarification on CR: Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he wanted to find out what Ryan meant by "a handful of days," but said Democrats would likely support something very short-term to avoid a government shutdown --- not longer than 10 days.

At his pen and pad briefing, Hoyer, D-Md., disputed Republicans' claim that Democratic leaders were keeping House Appropriations committee ranking member Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., out of discussions: "Nobody believes that."

Republicans put the onus on Democrats: "I think we'll probably we'll have a short-term extension and see how long [Democrats] want to hang around and work," senior appropriator Tom Cole, R-Okla., said. "We're not going to have an omnibus with no riders. I mean, that's surrendering part of Congress' prerogative."

The major sticking points right now relate to the fiduciary rule contained in the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law, provisions regarding abortion policy and how to handle the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States.  

"Ideally, what I think makes sense is, let's do the omnibus with the Syrian issue in it, with the life issue in it, send that, pass that, and then also pass a six-week CR and say 'here you go,'" Jordan said.  

Tax extender bill filed:  And then there's the so-called tax extender package, which members on both sides of the aisle want to pass before the holidays. A bill to renew expired tax breaks was filed Monday night to get the process moving, but Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said negotiations could continue on the finer points.  

"It hasn't been decided" how the package will come to he floor, Brady said in response to queries as to whether it could move in tandem with the omnibus. "It just needs to be done before we leave."  

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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