Five things that could sink spending bill

Dozens of controversial GOP-backed provisions were tucked into the $1.1 trillion government-funding bill Congress must approve to prevent a government shutdown.

Several of them could cost the package Democratic votes vital to the bill’s passage.


Separately, Republicans are expected to lose votes because of conservative complaints that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in attacking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Because of the lost GOP votes, leaders need to win over a number of Democrats.

Here’s a look at the five provisions that are costing the package Democratic votes.

Wall Street reform, reformed

The most controversial provision in the bill is language that would make it easier for banks to directly engage in derivatives trading.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll 2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day Sanders takes lead in new Hill/HarrisX poll MORE (D-Mass.) and other liberals argue it would strike at the heart of the Wall Street reform act and are urging Democrats to oppose it. They argue it could lead to another federal bailout of Wall Street.

Republicans counter that the change was backed by many House Democrats in a vote earlier this year.

This change could trigger enough Democratic opposition to pull the entire package down.

Loosened campaign contribution limits

The bill includes language raising the limits on what an individual can give to a national political party from a total of $97,200 per year to $777,600 per year.

For each two-year election cycle, the change would allow a person to give up to $648,000 to the Republican National Committee or Democratic National Committee. Individuals could also give up to $453,600 to both the House and Senate committees for each political party.

A wealthy donor could then actually contribute a total of more than $1.55 million to a national party, distributed across its campaign committees.

Democrats argue the change would give too much power in the political system to the wealthy.

After the Dodd-Frank changes, this is the provision causing the most angst among Democrats.

Relaxed school nutrition guidelines

The “cromnibus” takes aim at school nutrition standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama.

It includes a provision that allows local schools the flexibility to implement whole grain nutrition standards if the school shows that it’s difficult for it to obtain whole grain products.

Another rider would also prevent new standards to reduce sodium from taking effect until additional scientific studies are conducted.

The White House, however, has argued that the changes aren’t a big deal considering the broader changes Republicans had considered to the nutrition standards earlier this year.

“In light of the efforts to roll back school nutrition standards, we consider the minor adjustments to the standards a real win for kids and parents,” Sam Kass, the executive director of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, said in a statement.

Given the White House comments, it’s not expected the language will cost the bill too many votes.

Sage grouse protections

The bill would bar the federal government for one year from designating the sage grouse as an endangered species.

The birds’ habitats overlap with regions of the country where oil-drilling projects are prevalent. Republicans argue listing the sage grouse as endangered would curb those projects.

Environmental groups weren’t happy with the rider, but they said there are other ways to protect the species.  

No legal pot in DC

Republicans included language in the bill to block Washington, D.C., from implementing a ballot initiative voters approved in November’s election that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The bill’s language says federal and local funds couldn’t be used “to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution” of marijuana.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton on Wednesday argued the language could actually be a loophole because while the measure says you can’t enact a law, the referendum might actually be self-enacting.

Holmes Norton said she would offer an amendment at Wednesday’s Rules Committee markup to eliminate the rider.

While Holmes Norton has criticized the language, it does not appear many other Democrats would vote against the package because of the pot provision.

—Peter Schroeder, Timothy Cama, Megan Wilson and Mike Lillis contributed.