House GOP gears up for Friday vote on appropriations package

House Republican appropriators briefed rank-and-file members on the details of a 1,200-page spending bill Thursday afternoon in preparation for a Friday vote.

The closed-door meeting came amid a flurry of negotiations aimed at staving off a partial government shutdown and resolving year-end disputes surrounding the payroll-tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the lower chamber would vote on an omnibus spending bill tomorrow, but it was unclear late Thursday what form that would take. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was “hopeful” that a final deal would be struck to allow Democratic appropriators to sign off on a conference report for the $1 trillion omnibus Thursday night. But if that doesn’t occur, House Republicans are whipping their members to pass the bill on their own, to force the Democratic-controlled Senate’s hand and keep the government running.

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“I’m hopeful that we’ll get a conference report signed and available,” Rogers told reporters after the meeting. “We’re working hard, and things are looking up,” he added, repeating his optimistic tone from earlier in the day.

Rogers appeared to rule out even a one-day continuing resolution to buy negotiators more time.

“No. We’ve got a bill ready to go,” he said.

Minutes earlier, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters that Republicans were informed that a conference report could be signed and filed as early as 6 p.m. Thursday, indicating an agreement was close at hand.

Passing a stand-alone bill instead of a conference report would have implications for Senate procedure. A stand-alone bill could be subject to a filibuster, while a conference report is guaranteed an up-or-down vote.

House Republicans scheduled another closed-door conference meeting for Friday morning.

House GOP leaders intend to split the omnibus government funding package into three votes when the House votes on the measure Friday.

The strategy to divide a must-pass funding bill seems contrary to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but leaders believe that to gain a majority of support for a measure to prevent government shutdown, separating emergency spending and offsets to pay for that relief from the general funding will garner 218 votes.

“Each of them individually will pass, but if you put them altogether, then you have problems,” a lawmaker who attended the closed-door meeting told The Hill.

He explained that leaders want to break the measure out into three votes so they wont lose budget conservatives due to the disaster and emergency spending, and the offsets crafted to pay for that spending.

While Democrats might band together to oppose the 2012 government funding bill, many of those members who live in states hit by hurricanes or other disasters are not likely to vote against emergency funding, GOP leadership believes. But those same members might not vote to offset that spending, while conservatives will be more apt to support that measure.

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Earlier in the day, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he had problems with the emergency funding that pushed the spending levels beyond the $1.043 trillion agreed to in the budget-control act in late summer.

Republican leaders and rank-and-file members alike predicted the GOP would be able to pass the omnibus without much Democratic help.

Passing the payroll-tax extension this week unified the House GOP conference, one lawmaker said, enabling Republicans to gain leverage in the year-end negotiations on taxes and spending.

"Weve been more united over the last week than we have over the last 12 months,” the legislator said, crediting White House rhetoric for helping to rally the GOP.

— Bob Cusack contributed reporting.