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The 'Snail's Pace' of Omnibus Negotiations

Can Pelosi, right, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan get a deal on a year-end omnibus? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said omnibus spending bill negotiations are moving at a "snail’s pace" and are "glacier-like" — and the Kentucky Republican thinks the odds of releasing a final bill this weekend are slim.  

Rogers told a small group of reporters that "several dozen items" are outstanding, including policy riders and separate legislation members are trying to attach to the bill that are holding up discussions. But he said once leaders make the big decisions on items such as renewing expired tax breaks and oil exports, appropriators should be able to resume negotiations. Rogers wouldn’t talk about specific outstanding policy riders or outside legislation others want in the bill, but he did say of the latter, "Everyone wants everything."  

The likelihood of a weekend release for the most part disappeared Friday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced the House will come in next week on Tuesday, as was previously scheduled.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a Friday press conference that she thought negotiators had been making more progress than they had.  

"I see that the Republican leader has announced we won’t have a vote until Tuesday. I thought we were closer to a bill than that,” she said.  

Pelosi also commented on the slow pace of the omnibus negotiations, but offered Republicans a way to win Democrats support for the bill: remove longstanding language that has prevented federal dollars from being used to fund gun violence prevention research.  

“We know we have a responsibility to keep government open and that’s what we’re striving to do in spite of some of the bad riders that are still in the bill from days gone by – that have, shall we say, ossified within the process,” Pelosi said. “But I think it’s a gift to them to say, ‘You want our votes. Here is a way to get them.’”  

On Thursday, Rogers said negotiators would work over the weekend and predicted members would get their first look at the spending bill on Dec. 14, after buying themselves more time through a series of legislative moves.  

“I think it’ll take us at least until Monday,” Rogers said of posting the omnibus text. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn shared that sentiment. The Texas Republican said late Thursday afternoon there was still no deal, but it was his “hope and expectation” the House would post the text Monday, which would set it up for a final passage vote on Dec. 16.  

He said he hopes there will be enough cooperation in the Senate to also pass the catchall then, without the need for another short term continuing resolution. He also said at this point that a deal on extending expired tax provisions is still linked to the omnibus.  

The comments came after the Senate passed by voice vote Thursday a five-day CR using an amended bill the House had passed earlier this spring, the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations measure. The maneuver enables the Senate to lob the funding fight over the House and gives rank-and-file senators the ability to head home for the weekend as negotiators hammer out a final deal on the omnibus.  

Earlier Thursday, Rogers said negotiators had only moved a “few inches” closer to a deal on an omnibus spending measure in the past day.  

The Kentucky Republican said the new Dec. 16 funding deadline that will be set with passage of a five-day continuing resolution won’t be easy to meet — but when asked about the possibility of a second extension being necessary, Rogers dismissed the idea out of hand.  

“Oh please,” he said.  

But on Friday he said that while he hadn’t yet instructed his staff to write another short-term CR, it would be easy to pull one together.  

Once an omnibus is set, it could take four or five days before the House is prepared to vote on it — and the Senate would also need time to pass it, so negotiators are aiming to close a deal this weekend.  

“Time is truly of the essence,” Rogers said Thursday. “Even the five-day extension is going to be really close because of the built-in time capsules that must take place — the three-day layover,” he said, referring to the House rule on how long bill text must be public before a vote, “and the two days we’ll need to write the bill and polish it up.”  

Pelosi said that if Republicans attach a tax extenders package to the omnibus she won’t vote for it and expects most of her members wouldn't, either.  

She said even if Democrats get indexing of the earned income and child tax credits, two priorities for her caucus, many of her members wouldn't vote for the extenders package because it is too big.  

Bridget Bowman, Ryan McCrimmon, Tamar Hallerman, Emma Dumain and Alex Gangitano contributed to this report .

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Congress and the Omnibus Endgame: It's 'Complicated'

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