Pelosi unsure omnibus can pass

Pelosi unsure omnibus can pass
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she’s unsure whether the $1.1 trillion year-end government spending bill will pass the House — despite support from President Obama and congressional leaders in both parties and chambers.

Asked if she's “confident” the package will win enough Democratic votes to move through the lower chamber, Pelosi didn't pause for a second.

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“No,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “We're talking it through.”

A number of conservative Republicans are expected to oppose the omnibus bill over spending levels they deem too high and the absence of anti-terror provisions, meaning GOP leaders will likely need a significant number of Democratic votes to move the package on to the Senate.

Threatening that effort, a number of Democrats say they plan to oppose the spending package, arguing that it leans 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.’”

Pelosi said she herself will support the measure, but acknowledged “serious unease” among Democrats that leaves the final vote in doubt. The numbers, she added, remain unclear.

“You're asking me, ‘How many will we have? Will we have enough?’ What do they have?” she asked, referring to Republican support. “It's up to them to have the votes. They have the majority.”

Still, with the White House backing the measure, there's pressure on Democratic leaders to grease its passage.

Chief among the Democratic concerns is a GOP provision ending a decades-old ban on crude oil exports.

Pelosi has led the criticisms of that proposal, saying it's “incredible” that Congress is poised to promote fossil fuels in light of the recent multinational climate deal hammered out in Paris.

But she's also emphasizing to her troops that, in return for lifting the oil ban, Republicans dropped a long list of conservative priorities, including provisions to gut environmental protections, scale back Wall Street reforms and make it tougher for workers to unionize. 

“The fact that the Republicans wanted Big Oil so desperately really argues voting for the bill because they were willing to concede so much,” she said. “This was their raison d'être.”

Democrats also won a victory by extending tax benefits for wind and solar energy — provisions Pelosi said far outweigh the “damage” caused by the new oil exports.

“I feel that what we did in the bill more than 10 times offsets the damage that exporting crude oil does,” Pelosi said.

She said the ultimate decision for many Democrats surrounding Friday's vote hinges on whether they deem the renewable provisions to be enough to offset their concerns about the environmental effects of the oil exports.

“That ingredient was very harmful," she said. "But on the other hand it enabled us to get many more things.”

“Is it worth it? … That's what some members … are studying right now.”

Some liberal Democrats have also voiced criticisms that they've been left out of the negotiations at the expense of their constituents. Some want the talks to be reopened. 

“I don't know if we negotiated from a position of power in this,” said Gutiérrez, who's opposing the omnibus.

Pelosi acknowledged that the process was less than open — “We never really met; it was done at the staff level,” she said — but said she's hopeful that Democrats will back the package once they learn of its contents.

“Our members are going to do what our members are going to do.”