Top appropriations Dem: Omnibus talks ‘locked down’

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday said that bipartisan talks over an enormous 2018 spending package have hit a wall over scores of “poison pill” provisions within the bill.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said the negotiators were making headway in the process of weeding out the contentious riders that the Democrats deem to be nonstarters. But they’ve hit an impasse in recent days, she said, with the talks stalled and roughly 50 controversial provisions remaining.

“There was progress, we were moving along, and then it locked down,” Lowey told The Hill as she left the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting in the basement of the Capitol.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) painted a rosier picture of the omnibus talks Wednesday morning.


In a meeting with the GOP conference, Ryan told his House Republicans that leaders are “aiming” to introduce the 2018 spending bill by the end of the day Wednesday, according to a lawmaker in the room. That timeline would set the stage for a possible floor vote as early as Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, however, said the panel is not far enough along to introduce the package on Wednesday, saying the timeline for release is “likely early next week.”

Lowey, for her part, seemed to support that assessment.

“It’s not ready,” Lowey said, “but whether they vote this week on what they want to vote on this week remains to be seen.” 

Lowey declined to specify which issues are currently holding up the negotiations. But in a sign of some progress, Lowey indicated that there are “about 50 poison pills left” — a drop from the 100-plus number she had indicated a week ago in updating her fellow Democrats on the negotiations. 

Among the contentious issues that have hamstrung the negotiations are provisions targeting Planned Parenthood, possible fixes for problems dogging the new GOP tax law, funding for low-income subsidies under ObamaCare, the expansion of background checks for gun sales, new money for President Trump’s proposed border wall and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

“We’re making progress, but there haven’t been meetings in the last two days,” Lowey said, adding that committee staff is tentatively planning to meet Wednesday afternoon to iron out the remaining wrinkles.

“We’ll see what happens today,” she said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday endorsed a strategy in which both parties drop their demands for controversial provisions. Hoyer said Lowey had made such an offer to Republicans on the panel, led by Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

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

The federal government is currently being funded by a temporary measure, known as a continuing resolution, which expires on March 23. A failure of Congress to pass another funding bill before then would cause large parts of the government to shut down — an episode both parties have said they want to avoid.

Tags bipartisan negotiation Continuing resolution Donald Trump government funding House Nita Lowey Paul Ryan Rodney Frelinghuysen Steny Hoyer

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