Lawmakers Release Massive ‘Cromnibus’ 2 Days Ahead of Shutdown
With roughly 51 hours left before the government runs out of cash, lawmakers released the text Tuesday night of a massive 289,861-word, $1.013 trillion bill to keep federal agencies running past Dec. 11.
The spending package, a carefully negotiated piece of legislation between the Republican House and Democratic Senate, would fund the vast majority of government operations through September with the notable exception of the Department of Homeland Security.
Republicans, frustrated by President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, want to tighten the purse strings on the DHS, which the bill funds only to Feb. 27. DHS is the agency charged with carrying out much of the president’s immigration orders.
Negotiations had stretched well past the timeline lawmakers had initially planned, and the schedule for House and Senate action has already been pushed back. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on the legislation Wednesday at 3 p.m., and the House is expected to then vote on the bill Thursday.
That would leave hardly any time for the Senate to consider the legislation, or, more accurately, work through the procedural hurdles any one senator could impose on the bill to slow it down. While the House has not begun putting together a two- or three-day continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown, aides acknowledge there is a strong possibility they’ll have to move a stopgap CR when they vote on the so-called “cromnibus” — a portmanteau of CR and omnibus.
The expected Thursday vote in the House would technically comply with the three-day rule Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted on when he became speaker, allowing members three legislative days to actually read bills. But it would not adhere to the 72-hour standard Boehner advocated for many times.
The condensed timetable hardly gives lawmakers enough time to read — or digest — the 1,603-page bill. If members averaged 200 words per minute to read the dense legislative text, they would need 24 hours just to get through the bill. But most, if not all, lawmakers will be operating off of executive summaries of the measure. And according to those summaries, most of what is in the bill is what lawmakers already expected.
The bill would provide $554 billion for defense activities and $492 billion non-defense budget caps.
Under defense activities, the bill would provide $64 billion for overseas contingency operations, and would give military and civilian personnel a 1 percent pay raise. (The State Department would also get $9.3 billion for OCO, bringing the total to $73.3 billion.)
The bill also would provide $5.4 billion in emergency funds for Ebola and $6.5 billion for disaster aid.
While the trickiest issues may be buried deep in the legislative text, some of the policy riders included in the bill are likely to anger lawmakers in both parties.
Among the riders, Republicans were able to include provisions restricting the Clean Water Act, while Democrats were able to block Republicans from including riders on greenhouse gases.
The bill continues existing language on abortions, which blocks federal funds on abortion, but it would not include new so-called “conscience clauses” that would have denied employees certain reproductive health benefits under insurance plans. Many conservatives wanted those provisions.
Almost certainly, the major contention conservatives will levy against the bill is that it does not block the president’s executive action. Though members already knew the spending package wouldn’t, some have vowed to vote against any spending bill that doesn’t block implementation of the immigration order. But leaders on both sides already knew that.
The remaining question is whether those members — particularly in the Senate — will use the procedural tactics at their disposal to delay the bill. Doing so could throw the government into a shutdown; doing nothing hazards the appearance of having caved.
On the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made it clear shortly after the bill text was released that the public should not expect House Democrats to collectively take a position for or against the measure until at least early Wednesday morning.
“Until we review the final language, we cannot make a determination about whether House Democrats can support this legislation,” Pelosi said, “but I am hopeful.”
At a press conference last week, however, the California Democrat alluded to policy riders that could derail House Democratic support should they be included in the cromnibus. One rider restricting Washington, D.C. from implementing its recently passed referendum to legalize marijuana was ultimately included in the final spending package.
As recently as Tuesday afternoon, according to sources, Pelosi expressed consternation at a closed-door caucus meeting about reported GOP attempts to include language targeting the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, the financial regulatory overhaul that Democrats argue will prevent another recession — and which Republicans counter is too onerous. On Tuesday night, it was revealed that Republicans had succeeded in rolling back a portion of that law.
Democrats from contingents all across the caucus are likely to chafe at riders blocking new funding from the United States’ Green Climate Fund, along with those that would undo elements of the president’s climate executive order.
And there are those still seething over the short-term extension of Homeland Security funding, like the ranking member of the relevant House Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C.
At a press conference Tuesday, Price called the isolation of DHS funding a recipe for a shutdown of the agency when funding for its operations would expire at the end of February. He said he was “outraged” by the tactic designed to appease Republicans who want a fight early in the new year on Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and while he wouldn’t say whether it would result in a “no” vote on his part, it all made it “hard to predict how this goes” when the cromnibus comes to the floor.
There are plenty of House Democrats weighing their votes along the same lines as Price, but save a veto threat from the White House and assuming Senate Democrats go along with the plan, it’s not likely they’ll protest too much.
The House Appropriations Committee’s top Democrat, Nita M. Lowey of New York, suggested that she was as disappointed as anybody by the final bill, but that “that good-faith negotiations resulted in a product that members can decide whether or not to support.”
Either way, even more issues are certain to emerge in the coming days — really hours — as staff, lawmakers and lobbyists pore over the bill and find eyebrow-raising provisions. And passage of the bill in the House will rely on both Republican and Democratic votes.
Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.