GOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal

GOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal
© Greg Nash

House GOP leaders said they’re putting the finishing touches on an enormous 2018 spending bill, predicting the few remaining snags will be ironed out as early as Monday night.  

Finalizing a bipartisan omnibus agreement would set the stage for both chambers to vote on the $1.2 trillion package before Friday, when government funding is scheduled to expire. 

“We’re in good shape. … We’re really at the very highest levels now [and] I think most of these issues are settled,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeTrump's border wall hangs over spending talks House, Senate reach deal on fiscal 2020 spending figures New hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs MORE (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator, said Monday evening as he left a GOP conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol.

“They’re scrambling, working really hard to try to get them done so they can file tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (R-Calif.) said the Republicans would adhere to their internal 72-hour rule — stipulating that legislation must be introduced three days ahead of a floor vote — regardless of when the bill officially emerges.

“If it's able to be filed by before midnight tonight, we'll vote on it Wednesday. If not, we'll vote on it Thursday,” McCarthy said.

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The last-minute negotiations come after weeks of bipartisan talks over the mammoth package to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. The negotiations had been hindered by scores of contentious partisan “riders,” any one of which had threatened to derail the entire package.

While the package has not been finalized — and some provisions remain in flux — the negotiators appear to have winnowed the possible “poison pills” down to just a handful.

Catering to their own conference, GOP leaders rejected a Democratic entreaty to fund certain ObamaCare subsidies granted to insurance companies serving low-income patients. Conservative Republicans had insisted that any such provision be accompanied by so-called “Hyde amendment” language, which prevents federal funding of abortion services — a demand GOP leaders met to prevent Republican defections. 

At Monday’s GOP conference meeting, some Republicans erupted into cheers and applause when leaders announced that they would hold the line and insist Hyde language be attached to any new ObamaCare payments, according to a person in the room. 

Republican leaders also appear to have yanked a contentious online sales tax provision. Championed by GOP Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSouth Dakota governor doubles down on 'meth, we're on it' anti-drug campaign South Dakota drops pipeline protest laws after lawsuit New South Dakota law requiring 'In God We Trust' sign to hang in public schools goes into effect MORE (S.D.), the amendment would allow states to collect sales tax from out-of-state online retailers — a change some conservatives have warned will hurt small online businesses.

Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm MORE (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said a short extension for funding of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is likely a part of the final package. Without congressional action, FAA funds would expire at the end of March. 

Several policy riders remain in play, according to numerous lawmakers and aides. Among that short list is whether to include funding for the Gateway project, a commuter rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River. The funding is favored by regional lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.), but President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE has threatened to veto the omnibus if it includes the provision.

On Monday evening, the Republicans sent a Gateway offer to Democrats, and a GOP source said they expect a solution is forthcoming.

The Republican push for more immigration enforcement funding — including some money for Trump’s promised border wall — is another outstanding issue still in need of working out. 

"I think they're still talking about all that — how to do it, how to pay for it,” said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Trump talks spending with key GOP chairman as deadline looms MORE (R-Ala.), who’s expected to take the Appropriations Committee gavel from the retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranMike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe MORE (R-Miss.).

Disaster relief, including wildfire funding, is also an open item, according to aides.

Among the more surprising riders still in play is a bipartisan bill designed to bolster the background check system before gun sales. The House had passed the Fix National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) bill earlier in the year, but it’s gone nowhere in the Senate after House Republicans paired it with partisan legislation expanding the right of gun owners to carry concealed weapons nationwide — a non-starter with most Democrats. 

"Fix NICS is on the table. However, there is a little bit of resistance because that had been coupled with concealed-carry reciprocity before and now it's not," Rep. Daniel WebsterDaniel Alan WebsterCongress can't even study gun violence unless it changes the law Judd Gregg: Pelosi's olive branch...sort of Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade MORE (R-Fla.) said as he left Monday’s meeting. 

"I don't think that matters because there will be Democrats who vote for this. I don't think [this issue] is big enough to take down the whole bill."

House GOP leaders had hoped to introduce the omnibus bill on Monday, setting the stage for a vote on Wednesday. A delay in the release would likely push the vote further into the week, leaving the Senate with less time to move the package through the upper chamber.  

The week’s calendar is also being complicated by the threat of severe weather, which is expected to hit the Washington region Tuesday and Wednesday, and the funeral of the late Rep. Louise SlaughterDorothy (Louise) Louise SlaughterHouse passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Sotomayor, Angela Davis formally inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE (D-N.Y.).

Slaughter, the former ranking member of the Rules Committee, died last week at the age of 88. Her funeral is scheduled for Friday in Rochester, N.Y., and numerous lawmakers from both parties are expected to attend.

Cole said he’s confident Congress will come together before Friday to keep the government running, despite the time crunch — or perhaps because of it.

“I think we’ll get there,” he said. “What happens is what always happens around here. The closer you get to a deadline, the more reasonable people become.”

—Peter Sullivan, Naomi Jagoda and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.