Finance

Pelosi criticizes spending bill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered the $1.1 trillion year-end spending package Wednesday, suggesting eleventh-hour conservative riders would erode Democratic support and heighten the risk of a government shutdown.

Echoing criticism from other top Democrats, Pelosi said Republican amendments to loosen campaign finance regulations and undo parts of Democrats’ 2010 Wall Street reform law are particularly egregious.

“Once more, Republicans are working to stack the deck for the special interests against everyone else,” Pelosi said in a statement following a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol, where liberals sounded off against the package.

“These provisions are destructive to middle-class families and to the practice of our democracy. We must get them out of the omnibus package.”

Democratic support will be crucial to passage of the bill, as dozens of conservative Republicans are expected to oppose the measure over concerns that it doesn’t go far enough to counter President Obama’s recent executive action on deportations. 

The GOP defections mean House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will need Democratic support to pass the bill and send it to the Senate.

Heading into Wednesday, political observers of all stripes predicted that, despite grumbling from members on both sides of the aisle, the spending package, which was negotiated by appropriators in both parties, would win the support of congressional leadership and enough rank-and-file centrists to reach Obama’s desk easily.

Pelosi fueled that speculation in a statement issued Tuesday night, saying she trusted the Democratic negotiators and remained “hopeful” the Democrats could back the package. 

Twelve hours later, her tone had changed sharply, raising questions about how far Pelosi is willing to leverage her power in the debate — and creating new doubts about whether Boehner will have enough Democratic votes to pass the measure as is.

Two riders in particular have Pelosi and the Democrats up in arms. 

The first would alter the Dodd-Frank finance reform law to make it easier for banks to engage in some derivatives trading directly. Many Democrats say that move puts the government in danger of having to rescue Wall Street again if those financial instruments implode.

“This provision, allowing big banks to gamble with money insured by the FDIC, opens the door to another taxpayer-funded bailout of big banks — forcing middle class families to bear the burden of Wall Street’s mistakes,” Pelosi said.

The second would hike the limit on individual contributions to parties from $32,400 to $324,000 per year, a provision that would “drown out the voices of the American people and massively expand the role of big money in our elections,” Pelosi warned. 

Still, Pelosi stopped short of saying she would vote against the measure without changes. And some Democrats said that, despite the griping from the liberals, enough Democrats will back the measure to get it over the finish line on Thursday.

“I suspect a number of Democrats will be voting ‘no,’ ” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a veteran appropriator who is supporting the measure. “But it’ll pass. We’ll be out of here Thursday afternoon.

“I think the leadership understands let’s not mess with this because if you pull one string out, the whole thing will begin to unravel,” Moran added. “I think it’s a set package at this point.”

The House Rules Committee meets at 3 p.m. Wednesday to consider the bill.

“Until it goes to Rules, it’s not over,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “We’ll see what the final product is.”

Tags Appropriations Budget Jim Moran John Boehner Lame-duck Congress Nancy Pelosi
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