Dems push gun control, Puerto Rico relief in budget talks

Dems push gun control, Puerto Rico relief in budget talks
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House Democrats have bounced to Republicans their latest offer on government spending in a package that strips a slew of conservative riders and adds a few wish-list items of their own.
 
The Democrats' legislation, delivered to GOP leaders on Wednesday, includes a provision to extend healthcare benefits to 9/11 responders and another to help Puerto Rico manage its debt crisis, Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, told The Hill Thursday.
 
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It also includes language ending the decades-old federal ban on gun violence research — a provision sure to be a nonstarter with the Republicans.
 
The Democrats' package is just the latest volley in the government spending debate as the sides scramble to winnow out the "poison pill" policy amendments — those deemed unacceptable by one side or the other — that have stalled the debate.
 
Republicans have been pushing a series of riders the Democrats say fit that category. They include efforts to gut water and air pollution regulations, eliminate Wall Street reforms, make it tougher for workers to unionize, and bolster screenings for refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.
 
Lowey said the Democrats' package sheds all of the controversial conservative additions.
 
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and sponsor of the Syrian refugee bill, said Republicans met on the issue Wednesday, and that Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) "was pretty intent" on keeping that provision in the package. 
 
"But it's really up to leadership, at this point," McCaul said Thursday morning.
 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, suggested Thursday that Democrats will push hard for their gun provision but won't insist that it be included in the package.
 
"What we're saying [is] this is a priority for us," she said.
 
As the debate evolves, Democratic leaders now appear to be fighting to see how many concessions they can win in return for accepting an end to the ban on crude oil exports — a debate that's entwined the omnibus and the tax extenders bills even as they move on separate tracks. 
 
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the minority whip, said this week that Democrats are willing to swallow that provision in exchange for GOP concessions on some of the Democrats' priorities. Among those Democratic priorities is a push to index certain family friendly tax breaks to inflation — a move Republicans have resisted.
 
To buy themselves some time, GOP leaders on Wednesday introduced a five-day spending bill, which is slated for a Friday vote. That timeline means the final omnibus package will have to emerge on Monday, to fit the so-called three-day rule that House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) has promised. 
 
Sarah Ferris contributed.