House leaders introduced a nearly $1 trillion omnibus spending bill just before midnight Wednesday, a move designed to pressure Democrats into an end-of-year deal on taxes and spending.
The omnibus, which would fund the government through 2012 and avoid a government shutdown if signed into law by Friday, comes after a conference between negotiators in both chambers and parties. Lawmakers this week said the negotiators had nearly reached a deal, but Democrats have not signed off on the package yet.
By introducing the bill before midnight Wednesday, Republicans will be able to bring the package to the floor for a Friday vote, in accordance with their rule requiring that legislation be introduced three days before a vote.
Republicans have decided to move forward with the legislation after arguing that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) wasn't allowing Democrats to sign off on the conference report.
Reid and Democrats are worried that if he had signed off on the conference report, Republicans would have approved it and then left town. The House has already approved a bill extending the payroll tax cut extension, but it includes language opposed by the White House and Senate Democrats. If the House approves the omnibus, the lower chamber could adjourn and Reid would face a difficult decision on whether to approve the House payroll bill or be blamed for the tax rising.
The House Rules Committee has added the omnibus to its Thursday agenda, although a hearing time isn't set yet.
Sending the bill is a clear sign leaders are moving forward with a plan to counter Reid's blocking of the conference report.
“This final legislation is the outcome of tough negotiations and meaningful, bipartisan compromise," said House Appropriationas Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in a statement. "As is the case in any successful agreement, not everyone got everything they wanted," he said.
"But this is a good bill that strikes a reasonable balance between reduced spending, wise federal investments and policy changes that American businesses need to thrive."
The White House said it remains concerned about the bill, and is urging the House to approve a short-term funding measure for the government so that the sides have more time to negotiate the other two bills.
"The president continues to have significant concerns about a number of provisions that have been reported to be in the Republican agreement on the omnibus," said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, in a statement Thursday night.
"This includes provisions that would undermine Wall Street reforms, enact extreme social and ideological riders, undercut environmental protections and threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the president," he said.
"Given the magnitude of the legislation — providing over $1 trillion in funding — coupled with the unresolved payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution, as it has seven times already this year, so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year."
House and Senate Republicans have said a short-term bill isn't necessary because the omnibus is ready.
On Tuesday, Reid said there were still six or seven outstanding issues to be resolved.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) said “it’s pretty clear to all of us that President Obama and Sen. Reid want to threaten a government shutdown so that they can get leverage on a jobs bill.”
He reiterated that a deal had been struck on the omnibus but Obama and Reid were holding it up.
"So I’m hopeful that the president and Sen. Reid will allow the appropriators to sign the conference report and allow that bill to come to a vote in the House and Senate,” he said.
The biggest problem for Republicans is that the GOP might be unable to pass this bill with Republican votes alone.
If House Democrats stick together, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE would have to corral some of the 50 conservative members of his conference who have vowed to oppose appropriations bills based on the spending levels agreed to in the August debt-ceiling deal framework.
A second problem is that a conference report can be brought up in the Senate quickly, while a separate bill would be subject to amendments and a filibuster threat.
On top of this, appropriators are worried that the tactic could leave the omnibus text out in the public for too long, giving time for K Street lobbyists to attack it before it gets approved.
If the $1 trillion omnibus bill is not approved by midnight Friday, a government shutdown would occur.
"There is no reason for the government to shut down," said Kenneth Baer, director of Office of Management and Budget communications.
"Congress can avoid a shutdown by passing an acceptable omnibus spending bill as well as an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits — or by passing another short-term CR, as Congress has done seven times already this year," he said.
This story was posted at 12:51 and last updated at 9:02 a.m.