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Pelosi Supports Omnibus, but Other Democrats Not Sold

Pelosi will support the omnibus, but some of her Democratic colleagues are still on the fence. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will vote for the $1.1 trillion spending bill, but it's unclear how many of her more liberal colleagues will follow her lead, a situation fluid enough that members and aides are concerned there might not be enough Democratic votes to offset Republican no votes.  

Members of the Congressional Progressive, Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific American caucuses are inclined to vote against the omnibus, citing a variety of flaws in the bill they can't ignore.

Pelosi Won’t Guarantee Democrat Votes on Omnibus

CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., is upset the measure doesn't better allocate resources to low-income communities.  

“The CBC has long advocated for investment in civil rights programs and strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The budget deal reduces funding for many programs that we consider our priorities," Butterfield said in a statement Wednesday.  

At the Thursday whip meeting where Pelosi announced her support for the measure, according to a source present, Butterfield accused House Democratic leaders of negotiating with Republicans behind closed doors, leaving rank-and-file members to learn about developments through the press.  

"Many of our Democrats still have some concerns about what is in the omnibus and what isn't in the omnibus, and particularly what isn't," Pelosi said at her Thursday news conference, citing the lack of bankruptcy relief for Puerto Rico as a major problem for her members.  

She said she was heartened by Speaker Paul D. Ryan's commitment to moving a Puerto Rico relief bill through regular order in the first quarter of the new year, but questioned why "regular order" was necessary for this issue and not the countless other provisions that were dealt with in the omnibus.  

Progressive Caucus co-chairmen Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said many of their members intend to vote against the omnibus when it comes to the floor on Friday, but they were not actively whipping them to oppose it. Likewise, House Democratic leadership is also not whipping the bill.  

Both lawmakers said they were bothered by the policy rider lifting the ban on crude oil exports, a big Republican win.  

Pelosi said at the whip meeting she struggled with the decision.  

"I know that you all have to read the bill, balance the equities. ... This is really hard for me because of this oil thing," she reportedly told members, according to a source in the room. "You have to weigh the equity and come down. I have come down in favor of supporting the bill.”  

Grijalva told Roll Call it has largely came down to his inability to separate the omnibus from the tax extenders package, which Democrats largely oppose.  

Ellison mentioned the bill's lack of bankruptcy relief for Puerto Rico. He said he didn't fault Democratic leadership or the party's appropriators for trying to secure the best deal they could, but he just couldn't bring himself to vote "yes." Furthermore, Ellison added, why should Democrats bear that responsibility?  

"I mean, look, the Republicans have 246 members. There shouldn't even be a question," Ellison told a huddle of reporters Thursday. "Why is passing this bill on us? It's their bill. And they're in the majority and they should pass this bill."  

Pelosi was asked at her news conference if she was confident she could secure the votes on her side to help Republicans pass the omnibus.  

"No," she replied. ""It's up to them to have the votes."  

Republicans began whipping the omnibus on Wednesday in preparation for the Friday vote. Leadership aides and lawmakers were not prepared to come out with a definitive number of how many members they have committed to voting "yes," but they think they can pass it.

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