Dem whip to GOP: Drop your spending bill demands and we'll drop ours

Dem whip to GOP: Drop your spending bill demands and we'll drop ours
© Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats are pushing for a sweeping government spending package that excludes all extraneous provisions — even those that Democrats want.

Hoyer indicated there are still scores of controversial “riders” the Republicans are demanding as part of the 2018 omnibus talks, which House negotiators are hoping to finalize this week. Those “poison pill” provisions touch on issues ranging from reproductive health, campaign finance and the environment, Hoyer said.

To clear the path to passage, Hoyer said Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress sends first spending package to Trump in push to avert shutdown The stakes are sky-high for the pro-life cause in the upcoming midterms Dems urge Mattis to reject using 0M for border wall MORE (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, made GOP leaders an offer: You drop your demands and we’ll drop ours.

“Some riders … we like,” Hoyer said. “But her proposal was: Let’s drop every rider no matter who’s for it, and just have a riderless — not driverless — but riderless omnibus. 

“I think that’s probably the best policy for us to do,” Hoyer added. “It’s also politically the most feasible way to get an omnibus passed.”

A Democratic Appropriations aide declined to confirm Hoyer’s characterization of the talks, but said there remain more than 100 outstanding issues the sides are trying to iron out.

“It’s like a sweater. You pull one thread and the whole thing unravels,” the aide said. “Nothing is really closed until the bill is filed.” 

A spokeswoman for Appropriations Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenTrump endorses Republican candidate in key NJ House race On The Money: Lawmakers get deal to avoid shutdown | House panel approves 'tax cuts 2.0' bill | Jobless claims hold steady near 49-year low Congress sends first spending package to Trump in push to avert shutdown MORE (R-N.J.) said the sides are getting closer to an agreement, but aren’t there yet.

“The negotiations are ongoing and we are making good progress. However, many open items remain,” the Republican aide said Tuesday in an email. 

Congress last month passed a 2018 budget deal that authorized a significant increase in funding for defense and nondefense programs, above 2017 levels. House negotiators this week are scrambling to finalize an omnibus spending bill that applies that framework to federal programs through the end of the fiscal year.

In the meantime, the federal government is operating under a temporary spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, that’s kept funding levels largely in line with last year’s numbers. The resolution expires on March 23. 

The Democratic aide said negotiators are shooting to finalize an omnibus package by the end of Wednesday. That timeline would allow the House to vote on the proposal on Friday — a goal set last week by GOP leaders.

“That’s still the goal,” the aide said. “We’re going to have to kind of step on the gas [to meet it].”