House Democrats want Congress this month to pass a short-term continuing resolution free of extraneous, partisan policy riders, and then enact an omnibus spending bill on or before Dec. 9, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.
"I don't know why you would talk about minibuses unless you want to leave somebody off the bus," the Maryland Democrat said, criticizing an appropriations strategy Speaker Paul D. Ryan has promoted.
Minibuses would break up the 12 individual spending bills into a few small packages rather than lump them into a single omnibus bill. Ryan has argued that passing minibuses is closer to regular order and would make the appropriations process more digestible. But he's privately acknowledged that such a strategy would likely result in some bills not getting done, leaving the agencies covered by the unfinished measures in need of a continuing resolution to extend funding through the remainder of the fiscal year.
"That's the only reason to talk about a minibus, if you want to have a bus too small to carry all the folks," Hoyer said.
Despite the disagreement over strategy, Hoyer suggested it's possible for Democrats and Republicans to find agreement on a stopgap funding measure that Congress needs to pass to keep the government running beyond Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
"I hope they send a CR to the House — I understand it may be as early as next week — that is a simple, relatively simple CR that includes only items that there is consensus on and that we fund the government between now and Dec. 9, which is what I understand they're discussing in the Senate," Hoyer said.
"We will support that kind of effort," he added, speaking for House Democrats.
The Senate is working on a CR that would extend government funding through Dec. 9 and include supplemental funding to respond to the Zika virus outbreak and for a fiscal 2017 appropriations measure for military construction and veterans programs.
The point of contention that has yet to be resolved is language in the Zika funding package that would block money from going to Planned Parenthood and its affiliate in Puerto Rico.
Republicans have been "in effect, holding Zika hostage to their agenda," Hoyer said, calling for them to drop the controversial language related to Planned Parenthood as well as provision on pesticide use that Democrats oppose.
"Why would you include language that is clearly controversial in a bill you want to see passed ASAP?" he said.
House Democrats will oppose any effort to include "extraneous matters" on the CR "that clearly don't enjoy consensus from both parties," Hoyer said. "That will put government funding at risk."
While House Republicans have tried to blame Senate Democrats for obstructing the appropriations process, Hoyer said that doesn't explain why they have not brought up five of their own spending bills on the floor.
"The Senate can't stop bills coming to the floor of the House," he said. "They could have passed all twelve of the bills. They didn't do it."