House GOP looks to advance trillion-dollar omnibus

House GOP looks to advance trillion-dollar omnibus
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are taking steps to move a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill before the August recess.

On Friday morning, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told rank-and-file Republicans the vote-counting team would whip a 12-bill omnibus on Monday to gauge support, according to sources in the closed-door meeting.

The House Appropriations Committee is set to finish passing all 12 of its spending bills by the end of next week, leaders said.

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The package would include deep spending cuts unlikely to pass muster with the Senate, where a package would need 60 votes — including eight Democrats — to overcome procedural hurdles.

Still, depending on how the whip count goes, GOP leaders could put the omnibus package on the floor during the last week of July, right before the House adjourns for its August recess.

That strategy, first floated by Rep. Tom GravesTom GravesBillboard ads target Republicans who want to roll back net neutrality Week ahead: House eyes trillion-dollar omnibus | Crunch time for Senate ObamaCare repeal bill | Senate moves ahead on Trump nominees House GOP looks to advance trillion-dollar omnibus MORE (R-Ga.), is intended to move the long-delayed process forward and allow ample time to negotiate a final spending package before funding for the 2017 fiscal year runs out in early October, which would prompt a government shutdown.

It would also put some points on the board for House Republicans before they go off to recess — though it would put their counterparts in the Senate in a difficult position.

“We worked hard to build consensus for this process change. Now we have to build consensus for and pass the product, which will be a unified appropriations bill our country can be proud of,” Graves said.

The House Budget Committee is expected to introduce and pass the 2018 fiscal year budget resolution next week.

That effort has been repeatedly delayed as conservatives have pressed for bigger cuts to mandatory spending, but a key leader on the right offered support Friday for the budget’s $200 billion in cuts.

“I think we’re on the right track with that $200 billion number,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which counts more than half of the GOP conference among its members. 

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have pushed for even bigger cuts and have also demanded that they be told details of the GOP’s plan for tax reform before they sign off on the budget.

But moderates have bristled at the idea of passing deep cuts that would have little chance of passing the Senate, where it would attract no support from Democrats. While a budget can be approved in the Senate on a majority vote, the omnibus spending bill will need Democratic votes to reach President Trump’s desk. 

“The bigger problem is going to be when they got on the floor because of folks like me, who are saying we want a bicameral, bipartisan budget agreement prior to voting on a budget resolution. I want to vote on the real numbers, not a fake ones,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), the chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group.

The GOP budget would include $621.5 billion in defense spending and $511 in nondefense discretionary spending. The $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts come primarily from anti-poverty programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, among others. 

Senior appropriators said Friday the omnibus would have plenty of things favored by conservatives: money for Trump’s border wall, anti-abortion riders and a provision rolling back the Obama-era fiduciary rule, which requires retirement advisers to act in the best interest of their clients.

But it’s unclear if the funding package can attract the 218 GOP votes needed to pass.

“On the left with the Tuesday Group, on the right with the Freedom Caucus, they can all hold you hostage because they’ve all got enough votes to derail this,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an Appropriations subcommittee chairman who also serves on the Budget panel. “So to me the real question is can the conference’s natural cohesion and desire to get things done overcome the tribalism that’s associated with all these dueling caucuses. …

“This is to me a big test for us as a conference, but leadership has gone about it right way. They’ve let the idea percolate up from the conference.”

Cristina Marcos contributed to this report