House could vote on trillion-dollar funding package next week

Greg Nash

The House could pass a $1 trillion omnibus next week to give the Senate extra time to approve the massive spending package before funding for the government runs out on March 23, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told colleagues in a private meeting Tuesday.

“There was no formal guarantee but it was suggested as a possibility” that the omnibus vote would be next week, said one GOP lawmaker who attended the closed-door conference meeting.

McCarthy told rank-and-file Republicans he wants the House to act early to “beat the shutdown clock,” said another GOP source in the room.

Last month, GOP and Democratic leaders struck a budget deal that hiked spending on defense and domestic programs by about $300 billion over the next two years. The catch-all omnibus the House could take up next week would fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. {mosads}

In acting early, lawmakers are trying to avoid their third consecutive shutdown in as many months. In January, Senate Democrats forced a three-day shutdown to demand protections for “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. And in February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) caused a brief, hours-long shutdown, objecting to how much the budget deal would increase the national debt and cost taxpayers.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip who works closely with McCarthy, endorsed the idea of an early House vote.

But he was quick to note that GOP leaders will need Democratic votes to pass the package through the House, where conservative spending hawks are balking at the levels of federal funding authorized by last month’s budget deal.

With that in mind, Hoyer cautioned the Republicans to craft an omnibus package that can win broad bipartisan support.

“Eleven legislative days left, and the majority leader would like to see this bill passed, as I understand it, next week,” Hoyer said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol.

“I think that would be good. I think that’s possible. It’s possible only if we come to a bipartisan agreement, because the Speaker will not have the votes on his side of the aisle to pass the bill. So he’ll have to expect, and count on, Democratic votes to add to his votes. I hope he’s willing to do that.”

It’s unclear if McCarthy and the Republicans can meet their timeline goal. The Republicans are facing heavy pressure to include scores of policy riders, many of which are conservative wish list items that, by themselves, could erode Democratic support and threaten passage of the whole package.

Hoyer said that Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, had briefed the Democrats Tuesday morning on the progress of the talks, warning that the Republicans are pressing ahead for a number of those riders.

“Lowey said today the thought there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 of those [policy riders],” Hoyer said, “which clearly are not agreeable to us but are being suggested.”

Tags Kevin McCarthy Nita Lowey Rand Paul Steny Hoyer

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