Dems demand changes to funding bill

Dems demand changes to funding bill

Just hours ahead of a vote on an enormous $1.1 trillion spending package, House Democratic leaders amplified the pressure on Republicans to remove contentious amendments or risk sinking the bill.

Emerging Thursday morning from a closed-door meeting of the Democratic Caucus, top party leaders declined to say how they'll vote — a tactic designed to keep the heat on Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (R-Ohio) to eliminate riders that they say empower banks and wealthy political donors.

"They've got martial law in the rule. Assuming they adopt the rule, they can change the bill, and I think we ought to do it," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip. "That's our position, and we're sticking to it."

GOP leaders insist they have the bipartisan support needed to pass the $1.1 trillion spending package when it hits the floor Thursday afternoon. But they'll need dozens of votes from across the aisle to overcome conservative defections, and Democrats lining up in opposition say they have the support to sink the package.

"I'm hearing upward of 50 ‘nos’ on that side," Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who remains undecided, said of the Republicans. "I cannot in any math figure how they're going to do that."

"I don't think it's close," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who opposes the package.

For House Democrats weighing how to vote, the question is one of principle versus policy.

On the one hand, they loathe many aspects of the bill — particularly the two controversial riders — and don't want to be seen as endorsing them.

On the other, there's a deep concern that sinking the cromnibus now — thereby forcing BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE to bring up a short-term spending patch to fund the government for a few months — will only grant GOP leaders more sway over 2015 spending when they return next year with control of the Senate and more seats in the House.

"That," said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), "is why I'm a little bit ambivalent."

But a growing number of House Democrats say they're ready to risk the policy implications in the next Congress for the sake of voting on their principles now.

"There are dangers either way," Doggett said. "But we ought not be on record as weakening what we sought to avoid another financial crash."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), another no vote, piled on.

"This idea, 'Oh, things could be worse.' … I don't buy that," she said. "They're going to do what they do anyway."

Asked if delaying the bulk of the debate to next year would hurt Democrats, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, "The president feels that way."

"But the question is, how the hell do you go home and explain what you voted for this year?" he added.

Democrats supporting the package see the "cromnibus" bill as the party's best opportunity to fund the government through the fiscal year while Democrats still control the Senate.

"Working across the aisle and across the dome, we created compromise without capitulation," Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiHarris invites every female senator to dinner next week Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Bottom line MORE (D-Md), head of the Appropriations Committee, said this week.

But House liberals view the debate differently. Schakowsky argued the dynamics create an opportunity for Democrats to take a stand.

"I think this is now the opportunity for Democrats to be very clear which side we're on," she said.

Fueling the Democratic opposition, leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) are whipping members to vote no, citing changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and campaign finance rules allowing a sharp increase in donations to political parties.

"Stakeholders from across the progressive community — including the AFL-CIO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Public Citizen, Communications Workers, Common Cause, and many others — have expressed their opposition to passing a funding bill that includes these dangerous provisions," CPC leaders wrote Thursday morning in an email blast to fellow Democrats.

Amidst the swirling debate, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who said Wednesday he'd support the package, is now reconsidering.

"It's bad to vote for it," he said, "and it's bad to be involved in closing down the goddamn government.

"So my decision is almost in the hand of Republicans."

— This story was updated at 12:27 p.m.