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Spending Bill On Track to Avert Shutdown

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sources say appropriations staffers worked significantly over the holiday recess to narrow the gap between the two sides, and Rogers, above, is set to meet with Mikluksi this week to iron out the final details.

If it weren’t clear already that lawmakers — especially Republicans — want to avoid another government shutdown, the overwhelming optimism Monday that Congress will pass an omnibus spending measure for the first time in two years tips their hand.

Democratic and Republican aides in both chambers believe that Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., will come to an agreement this week on a more than $1 trillion bill to fund the government. But even with the highest hopes for swift passage, negotiating a behemoth spending package that touches every corner of the government is not easy.

Mikulski told CQ Roll Call that four of the 12 appropriations bills have been completed — the Legislative Branch, Commerce-Justice-Science, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD, while the three most challenging bills are Defense, Labor-HHS-Education and Interior-Environment.

The Affordable Care Act and abortion remain sticking points, Mikulski said. “If something begins with an ‘A’ it’s a sticking point, and I’m trying to get to the ‘Zs’,” she said.

The goal is to announce a deal by Wednesday and file the bill by Friday. Senate Democratic aides said the House would ideally file the legislation by the end of this week and get it on the Senate floor next week, ahead of Congress’ Jan. 15 deadline to avert a shutdown.

One aide said that the “overwhelming majority of issues” were resolved over the break and noted there has been “minimal conflict” over the controversial policy riders that usually bog down such negotiations.

Although there certainly is consternation among Republicans over funding the president’s health care law, sources say even some of the staunchest conservatives acknowledge that shutting down the government in October over the measure was a failure. And with the eleventh-hour injunction from the Supreme Court on the law’s contested contraception mandate and other lawsuits emerging, Republicans believe they have found more appropriate channels for their frustration.

“Every member who voted for the budget agreement likely would vote for this,” said one House GOP leadership aide of the 169 Republicans who voted in December to give appropriators their top-line numbers for the next two fiscal years. House Republican leadership aides approached for this story asserted that they were confident the omnibus spending bill would pass.

Of course, leaders will still have to round up the votes, once the massive bill is revealed to the public — especially given that it is certain to include heartburn-inducing items for the GOP rank and file and fodder for outside groups to attack.

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