Appropriators fight to beat clock

Appropriators fight to beat clock
© Anne Wernikoff
Lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to maintain their momentum and complete writing an omnibus spending bill by Friday. 
 
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), however, acknowledged that some sort of short stopgap measure would now be likely to avoid a Jan. 16 shutdown. 
 
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“Because of the Senate procedures, we are probably going to have to do a couple of days [continuing resolution],” Rogers said. He added that such a measure could run through Jan. 17, when Congress departs for another weeklong recess.
 
Yet Rogers said negotiators are clearly making progress, with eight of the 12 parts of the omnibus done.
 
“We probably have eight or so that are absolutely done,” he said. “We’re reducing the number of items that are in disagreement.”
 
That represents progress from Tuesday when Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said six out of 12 were done.
 
Getting the bill written by Friday would allow Congress to vote next week on the $1 trillion measure containing hundreds of pages of funding details.
 
Sources said the Labor, Health and Education measure which involves ObamaCare and union-related provisions remained a problem on Wednesday. ObamaCare funding issues shut down the government for 16 days in October.
 
In a positive sign for the omnibus, the controversial Interior and Environment portion appeared to be close to final.
 
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), who chairs the subcommittee in charge of Environmental Protection Agency funding said the level of EPA funding had been finalized.
 
Calvert also signaled that major policy riders were not going to be in the bill.
 
“There is nothing in there that’s a showstopper,” he said. He added that he believes the bill will be done by Friday.
 
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, said he too thinks Calvert and Rogers will not push major EPA changes on the bill.
 
“I think Ken understands that an appropriations bill is not the appropriate place to be writing environmental and energy legislation,” Moran said. 
 
The Defense portion of the bill was already in legislative language form, said Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney FrelinghuysenRepublicans take heat on Trump's tax returns Trump's budget kills national service when we need community most House passes 8B defense spending bill MORE (R-N.J.), who chairs the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He said he was being lobbied by other members for changes however. 
 
“Things are never closed. I have quite a lot of things given to me in the last hour by people who think things are always open,” he said coming off the House floor during a vote. 
 
He signaled that big program changes for contractors such as for the F-35 fighter or the Navy’s littoral combat ship would not be coming. 
 
“We have a healthy respect for all the aforementioned items,” he said. 
 
On cuts to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter he said, “it is important to have an aircraft that meets the needs of all of our services.”