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Leaders Take Shots at Each Other Over Spending, Payroll Tax

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Several sources suggested Monday that Senate Democrats may try to hold up the spending bill as a wedge to force House Republicans to negotiate on the payroll tax measure. Senate Democratic sources today added that no deal had been reached on the package that would keep the government funded.

Democratic aides were quick to say today that if Boehner actually had agreement on the spending package, he should bring the bill up for a vote. But without sign off from the Democratic conferees first, it would lose its privileged status as a conference report, put lawmakers in a serious jam for time and risk final passage.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the Democratic ranking members of both the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education were optimistic during a leadership meeting last night. Those bills have housed several of the most controversial policy riders, but the appropriators told Hoyer that significant progress has been made in stripping extraneous provisions.

But there are still a few outstanding issues that must be dealt with before the bill can be wrapped up, Hoyer added.

“I think that the bill itself is 98 percent done. I think there’s some still-lingering issues that I think are workable,” the Maryland Democrat said.

A Senate Democratic source pointed to a handful of sticking points, including on extraneous riders and some spending levels. Democratic aides familiar with the negotiations said they object to a rider on the defense spending bill that allows the military to buy coal as “an alternative fuel,” a rider on the Energy and water bill to prevent the Department of Energy from using funds to enforce incandescent bulb standards, a provision on the financial services measure from Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) that would tighten travel restrictions to Cuba, and a rider on the District of Columbia bill to ban funds to women’s health centers that provide family planning services.

Democrats also said there is still a dispute over the funding levels for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Republicans want to provide less than what the White House believes is necessary to fund the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill.

Republicans conceded those issues were contentious at one point, but they insist that a resolution has been reached.

It’s unclear how unpopular these riders would actually be if the bill makes it to the Senate. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told Roll Call Tuesday he supports the Cuban family travel ban and doesn’t believe the rider would hold the bill up in the Senate. And the D.C. family-planning provisions had been approved in previous spending agreements.

Jessica Brady and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.

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