Dems say 20 'poison pills' stand in way of spending deal

Dems say 20 'poison pills' stand in way of spending deal

House Democratic leaders said Tuesday that more than a dozen “poison pill” provisions are preventing a bipartisan deal on 2018 spending, pushing Congress ever-closer to a government shutdown on Saturday and leading some top lawmakers to float the idea that another stop-gap bill may be needed to keep Washington running. 

“My understanding is there’s still about 20 poison pills still out there that need to be worked out, down from 100 and some,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Appropriation Committee’s subpanel on Homeland Security, said as she left a meeting of the Democratic Caucus in the Capitol, where appropriators updated lawmakers on the omnibus negotiations. 

On her subcommittee, Roybal-Allard said the sides “are still at an impasse” over Republican requests for tougher border security and interior enforcement of immigration laws. 

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“It’s still border security — [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents,” she said. “We really have been very flexible, in a lot of the areas, and they just won’t budge.”

Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyLobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, declined to specify the outstanding issues, but she confirmed that the 20 figure is accurate. 

“That’s right,” she said. “But this moves around.”

The comments come as Republican leaders say they’re on the verge of finalizing the omnibus package, which would fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Huddling in the Capitol, GOP leaders told their troops that they’ll file the bill on Tuesday, with a floor vote expected Thursday.

Faced with conservatives opposed to the bill based on its increased spending levels, Republicans will need Democratic votes to pass the measure through both chambers. And the comments from the Democrats suggest the sides have plenty of work remaining. 

“I don’t think it’s ready,” said Lowey. “We’ll see what they do.”

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan Photos of the Week: Climate protests, Blue Origin and a koala MORE (D-Calif.) said negotiators are “moving along,” but she warned that no deal will happen unless the Republicans drop their demands for controversial riders. She mentioned the Homeland Security provisions as a particularly high barrier to an agreement. 

“It depends on if they take out some of the poison pills and cooperate on Homeland Security. But the poison pills make it a nonstarter in some respects,” Pelosi said. “But progress is being made. … It’s moving in the right direction.

Pelosi also didn’t rule out the possibility that Congress would need to enact another short-term spending patch, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the week. The government is currently operating under its fifth CR.

“Somebody said that the Senate might not be able to get their work done and there might be a CR just to get through the time,” Pelosi said.

She floated two possible scenarios.

“The CR mostly that’s been talked about is if we can’t do Homeland Security, we do that as the CR and the rest of the bill [separately],” she said. “More prominently discussed is if the Senate has all of these procedural things it has to do it might not be finished in time, and maybe [we’ll need] a short-term [bill] just to see it through — should we come to agreement on the other things.

“We’re going to see what happens today.”

Last month, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R-Ky.) had single-handedly prevented leaders of his own party from fast-tracking a deal on budget caps to protest the enormous deficit spending contained in the agreement. Paul’s speech caused a brief government shut down, which was resolved before any federal employees were affected.

Paul, on Tuesday, floated the idea that he might stage a similar protest this month.

”We haven't decided,” he said.

Without congressional action, large parts of the government will close its doors at the end of Friday. Complicating the equation, the Washington region is experiencing a late winter storm, with snow forecast for Tuesday night and expectations high that Congress could cancel votes on Wednesday. Also squeezing the week’s schedule is the funeral for Rep. Louise SlaughterDorothy (Louise) Louise SlaughterDemocrats must go on the offensive against voter suppression House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Sotomayor, Angela Davis formally inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame MORE (D-N.Y.), who died last week and will be interred in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday. A number of lawmakers from both parties are expected to attend.

Several Democratic lawmakers said they’re still pushing to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as part of the omnibus package. President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE has sought to eliminate the program, though a federal judge has temporarily blocked that effort. The lack of certainty surrounding the program’s future has led many Democrats to insist that "Dreamer" protections be included in the spending bill.

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“The lack of any movement on the DACA issue is still problematic for me [and] I think for a lot of our members,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit Biden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally MORE (Calif.), a leading Democratic voice on immigration policy, said the federal judge’s decision is influencing the nature of the DACA talks.

“You’ve got a court decision that protects the existing DACA kids. So protecting the existing DACA kids is no deal. We already have that, so it would have to go beyond that to be significant,” Lofgren said. “We’ve got kids who have aged in, who were too young to apply, and they can’t apply under the court order.”

Roybal-Allard also emphasized that Democrats would accept tougher immigration enforcement only if the Republicans shifted tactics and offered broad protections to Dreamers and other immigrants in the country illegally.

“We would have to get something really substantial,” she said. 

“At least there are still talks going on,” she added. “A couple of days when there was nothing. Now at least there’s discussions at different levels.”

Jordain Carney contributed.