Speaker Paul D. Ryan has vowed that in 2016 there will be a return to regular order in the appropriations process, and he said he has received support from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that will make it easier for him to honor that.
"I think [Reid] too wants to get us back to regular order and that’s why he’s impressed upon me his goal to not block bills coming up to the Senate," Ryan said at a news conference Wednesday. "Now whether they filibuster a bill coming off the floor because of some rider, I can’t speak to that.”
"Goal" seems to be the key word there, as Reid's office was not promising things would work out that way. "Reid would like to skip motions to proceed to appropriations bills but advancing appropriations bills also depends on cooperation from Republicans," a Reid aide told Roll Call.
The speaker's office also issued a statement after the news conference reiterating that nothing was set in stone.
“Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Reid had a good conversation this morning about the need to get back to regular order on appropriations bills in 2016," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. "Of course as the speaker said in his press conference, the minority will retain their rights, and the details will be worked out amongst the Senate leaders.”
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Senate Democrats blocked debate on appropriations bills this year, filibustering on motions to proceed whenever a bill was brought up, because of their opposition to sequestration funding levels. Ryan said he and Reid have talked frequently about the issue over the past few days and said the minority leader agreed that strategy shouldn't be necessary next year.
"The reason he blocked those appropriations bills is now gone,” Ryan said, referring to the budget deal Congress passed earlier this year that set the top-line funding level for fiscal 2017.
If Reid and Senate Democrats do agree to take up regular appropriation bills next year, that will be a win for Ryan and for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said in interviews last week, including with Roll Call, that he is committed to spending significant floor time on spending bills.
Reid's goal, however, falls short of allowing the bills through without final filibuster threats, meaning Senate Republicans will likely need to avoid the temptation to add contentious policy riders (or strip them out of House-passed bills) if they want to smooth debate.
In other cross-chamber news, Ryan said he had assurances from McConnell that the Senate in early 2016 will take up a House-passed bill to enhance the certification process for refugees from Syria and Iraq.
Ryan touted a few policy wins in the omnibus, such as the lifting of the oil export ban and legislation on visa waivers. He also made clear he sees things are set up nicely for next year's appropriations process.
“I do believe this agreement gets us that much closer for restoring a semblance of regular order," he said.
One of the things that would help Republicans negotiate next year is if many of them support the omnibus this year. Since Democratic votes are typically needed to pass major spending bills, they've held a lot of leverage in negotiations even though Republicans hold the majority.
“I think our members realize the bigger the vote we provide, the more leverage we get ourselves.” Ryan said.
However, he wouldn't commit to how big that vote would be and whether he'd adhere to an earlier pledge to ensure major bills have support from a majority of Republicans.
"As far as who votes for what, I’ll leave that up to the members of Congress," he said. "That’s their decision to make.”
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
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