Pro-life riders emerge as key spending bill stumbling block

Pro-life policy provisions have emerged as a key stumbling block for the $900 billion omnibus spending bill Congress is trying to pass by Dec. 16.

Conservatives are making a big push for their inclusion, which they say could prevent a repeat of the 100-plus defections by House GOP members last month in the vote on a smaller spending bill.

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Democrats, feeling empowered by the defection, are demanding the removal of all such riders.

The omnibus bill includes the nine remaining annual appropriations bills for fiscal 2012, which began on Sept. 30. The Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce appropriations have already been enacted.

Sources said that of the nine remaining bills, the Labor, Health and Human Services bill has emerged as the roughest negotiation.

House Labor subcommittee Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and Senate Labor subcommittee Chairman Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Wisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes MORE (D-Iowa) are not seeing eye-to-eye. 

“The bill has so many cultural issues packed into it,” one aide said, noting a fight over a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood and for needle exchange programs.

Not far behind is the Interior and Environment bill, which also has dozens of anti-regulatory riders in it.

Both sides are still trying to get these two bills into the omnibus without resorting to a continuing resolution (CR) for the agencies they cover.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said that dealing with the Labor, HHS bill is “one” of the stumbling blocks to finishing a deal.

Labor subcommittee ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said there are many dollar-amount issues to be addressed still, as well as more than 40 riders.

“It is one of the two most difficult bills we face,” she said.

Asked about a CR for Labor, she said “we’ll see.”

Appropriators are looking to convene an official House-Senate conference committee on the omnibus no later than Dec. 12 in order to present a bill that day for a House vote on Dec. 15. To make this plan work, all differences need to be ironed out before the week of Dec. 12. The current temporary spending bill expires Dec. 16.