Liberal, minority Dems sound off against omnibus

Greg Nash

House Democrats are lining up against a year-end government spending package, saying it tilts too heavily in favor of Republican priorities.

"I think it's a disgrace," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a leading member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), said Thursday morning. "I think Democrats have to stand up tomorrow and say, 'no.'"

The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) delivered a similar verdict. Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rául Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said they both intend to oppose the $1.1 trillion spending bill when it hits the floor Friday.

Ellison was quick to praise the Democratic negotiators, saying they did "excellent work" to make it "as good a bill as possible."

"But that's a separate question from whether I'm going to vote for it," he said.

The comments arrive a day after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a key architect of the omnibus spending bill, met separately with members of the CPC and the Tri-Caucus, which consists of black, Hispanic and Asian-American Democrats.

Leaders of both groups said she heard an earful.

Grijalva, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, singled out the oil export provision as the leading concern of the Progressive Caucus members. That and a series of unpaid permanent tax breaks for corporations were the leading complaints.

"Those were the concerns that came up over and over again," Grijalva said.

Rep. G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldHouse erupts as GOP tries to halt Dems' sit-in Clinton vows to work closely with Democrats Dems decline to rush Fattah's departure MORE (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), issued a statement warning that members of the group didn't feel represented in the negotiations and might not support the package.

"At this time, we are reluctant to support the omnibus or the Tax Extenders," he said Wednesday. "They are lacking in support for our communities."

Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a CBC member, said Thursday that he's leaning toward supporting the omnibus bill. But he predicted a large number of CBC members will oppose the spending package.

"They're adamantly opposed and trying to encourage me [to join them]," Clay said.

Clay said he doesn't have a problem with ending the crude oil export ban, a provision that's been a lightening rod of criticism from most Democrats.

"I am one who favors, at this point, lifting the export ban on crude oil. It's been in existence for 42 years. I think that's long enough," Clay said. "We have to be responsible, too, to continue to fund the government."

But he criticized a provision increasing the number of visas for foreign workers, warning that such an expansion "could wreak havoc on our job market, especially with unemployment being so high among African Americans."

"We don't need cheap labor to come in," he said, adding that, "I have not made a definitive decision yet."

The spending bill has put Pelosi in a pickle, caught between a liberal Democratic caucus opposed to many of the GOP tax and policy provisions and the reality that Republicans control both chambers of Congress.

Pelosi has tried to walk a line between those forces by blasting certain provisions of the package — in particular the oil export provision and the absence of language helping Puerto Rico mange its debt crisis — while attempting to explain her support for it.

At a meeting of House Democrats Thursday morning, she said she'll vote for the spending package but party leaders will not whip votes.