After two years of constant fighting, Republicans and Democrats are laying down their arms and working to strike deals in the hopes of leaving town at the end of next week.
While there are voices of dissent in both parties, congressional leaders appear to be coalescing around legislation that would fund the government through September, likely avoiding the shutdown fight that threatens to keep them working through the holidays.
If the spirit of compromise holds, it could give GOP leaders in the House and Senate what they have long wanted: a chance to “clear the decks” for their new majority in January.
The key issue is the government funding bill, and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE’s (R-Ohio) strategy for avoiding a shutdown and ending the 113th Congress won surprising support Tuesday from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), who suggested the proposal would be “a big accomplishment.”
Reid’s support makes it much more likely that Boehner’s proposal of a “cromnibus” could become law.
The proposal, which Boehner relayed to his conference in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, ties 11 appropriations bills funding most of the government through September to a separate, shorter-term continuing resolution (CR) funding the Homeland Security Department through March.
The short-term funding for Homeland Security is intended to respond to pressure from Republicans outraged over President Obama’s executive actions granting legal status to up to
5 million illegal immigrants.
By only funding immigration-related agencies for a short time, lawmakers could revisit the issue next year when both the House and Senate are under GOP control.
And the Speaker indicated to his members that the House would vote as soon as Thursday on a measure by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that would allow Republicans to voice disapproval of Obama’s immigration move.
Passing Yoho’s measure would be largely symbolic, however, since it would go nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.
Not everyone is ready to stop fighting, however.
After Boehner presented the plan, a number of conservatives questioned why the party is poised to fund the government through September when it will have complete control of Congress in a matter of weeks.
They argue a short-term funding measure would let a GOP House and Senate take on Obama over immigration in January.
Leadership is “asking us to fund the president’s unconstitutional lawlessness. That’s a bridge too far for me. I won’t vote to do that,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken opponent of immigration reform, said in an interview. “Our best chance to protect the Constitution and defeat the president’s lawlessness between now and Dec. 11 is by de-funding.”
The government will shut down if Congress does not approve a new funding measure by Dec. 11.
“I oppose anything that funds the government till September. I don’t care what the conditions are,” added Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who told The Hill the GOP should keep impeachment of Obama on the table. “Short term is more desirable.”
At a forum moderated by the conservative Heritage Foundation, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and John Fleming (R-La.) all panned the leadership’s plan and pushed for the short-term CR alternative.
“The cavalry is coming,” said Jordan, a past chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “Why in the world would you want to extend a CR for several months without waiting for those people to get here?”
The conservative outrage puts Boehner in a familiar end-of-the-year position even after a spectacular midterm victory.
House GOP leaders have repeatedly struggled to put together the votes behind measures to fund the government — in 2013, conservatives forced a 16-day shutdown over efforts to defund ObamaCare.
Senior GOP lawmakers and leadership aides are adamant there will be no shutdown this time. And while their preference is to pass the funding package without relying on House Democrats, they acknowledged that some Democrats might cross the aisle to help get the plan past the 218-vote threshold.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is opposed to short-term funding for immigration-related agencies, though Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled on Tuesday that he’s at least open to it.
Reid’s support could also give political cover to Democrats across the Capitol who are thinking of voting for the funding measure.
“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all the appropriations subcommittees except for one,” Reid told reporters. “I think it’s kind of unfortunate that they’re talking about not doing Homeland Security, but that’s the way it is.”
Many Senate Democrats briefed on the situation during their weekly closed-door caucus lunch, while not thrilled with the plan, didn’t reject it out of hand.
“The Appropriations Committee has done a huge amount of work in the last year to get back to regular order, to be ready to make an omnibus happen,” said Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, a Senate appropriator. “I truly hope there is still an opportunity for a genuine omnibus rather than a needless knee-jerk reaction to the president’s executive order.”
In the private House GOP Conference meeting, Huelskamp, King and Rep. Matt Salmon (Ariz.) were among the conservatives who stood up at the microphone and spoke out against the Boehner strategy, lawmakers in the room said. But the tone of the meeting wasn’t hostile, and senior Republicans predicted the plan would win approval.
“I think there’s some concerns in certain areas, but generally they’ll support it,” retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), a close Boehner ally, told The Hill.