House Republicans emerged from an early morning meeting today ready to pass an omnibus spending bill but still willing to duke it out into next week on a package of tax cuts and unemployment benefits extensions.
The House will vote on the spending measure today, along with a continuing resolution that will keep the government open through Dec. 23, according to the House’s top appropriator.
Describing himself as at once “exhausted” and “relieved” after a protracted spending fight, Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said he believes his bill will pass without issue. The CR, he said, is to give staff time to enroll the 1,200-page bill.
“I think it runs until next Friday just to cover the delays in enrolling. It’s an enormous bill,” the Kentucky Republican said, adding that the contents of the bill were settled Thursday.
Senate leaders, meanwhile, are working behind closed doors on a measure that would extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months while preventing a pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Speaker John Boehner said following his Conference’s meeting that if he is presented with such a measure, he would attach to it a provision forcing a fast-tracked administration decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project.
“The House has done its work and we’re waiting on the United States Senate,” the Ohio Republican told reporters. “But these rumors that are floating around here about a two-month extension, I’ll just say this: If that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it, and I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.”
GOP Members said the Speaker told them the same thing in the meeting, and several said they did not believe the measure could pass the House without the pipeline provision.
“Speaker Boehner said anything the Senate sends over we’re sending back with Keystone pipeline. Because we need to get people back to work,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said today.
Speaking about the two-month extension, Rep. John Campbell said he “didn’t talk to anybody in there that thought it was a good idea, and I talked to quite a number of people.”
“That just means we have this whole month again in February, and we’ll start from scratch again. We don’t need to do that, that’s dumb. Let’s resolve it one way or another,” the California Republican said.
He said “people were begging” for specifics but that few were offered since negotiations remain ongoing.
Boehner told Members that he would send them home this afternoon after the House votes on the spending bill.
According to GOP aides, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) told Members they would be given at least 24 hours' notice before they needed to return to Washington for votes on any payroll tax extension bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were on the floor this morning expressing optimism about the ongoing talks on extenders. Reid said negotiators are making "really good progress" on finding an agreement. It was the second day of good feelings from the two rivals, but aides acknowledged there's still much work left to be done before leaders can shake on a deal.
McConnell, through a spokesman, also said today that he would not support any agreement that did not include the Keystone pipeline. He is slated to talk about the issue on the floor early this afternoon.
Jessica Brady and John Stanton contributed to this report.