Tuesday, December 8, 2015

House Republican leaders acknowledge they won't get the government funded by Friday

This Friday's deadline for funding the government with an omnibus spending bill is already blown, acknowledges House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). 

"When it comes to the [omnibus], I'm seriously looking at having us in on Friday or over the weekend to get our work done," McCarthy said during a press conference on Monday. The California Republican said he did not anticipate any problem passing a stopgap spending bill to keep federal agencies open beyond Friday.

Top Republicans have vowed they won't allow a government shutdown; the last one, in 2013, was seen as a debacle for the party. Yet bitter policy fights are delaying a deal.

“We thought we had an agreement. And we’re moving very substantially through the weekend," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. "But … complications with the tax extenders have been a bit of a setback. But we were making great progress on the money and I felt great progress on the [policy] riders. Right now we seem to be stuck."

They might actually be able to avert that shutdown. A CNN reporter tweets that the Freedom Caucus is now pushing for a six-week stopgap funding bill. Congressional Democrats insist, however, they'll accept nothing longer than a one-week bill so that this work is wrapped up before the holiday recess (which had been scheduled to start this weekend). Their main issue, according to that reporter, is figuring out how to bar Syrian refugees. If there is a deal on the refugee issue that the Freedom Caucus doesn't like, then maybe all bets are off on the shutdown. 

We'll have some indication of that as early as Tuesday, when the House will vote to tighten up restrictions on visa-free travel to the U.S. Politico is reporting that leadership hopes this vote will "take pressure off them to include additional certifications for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the U.S. in the must-pass spending bill." Leadership hoping to take pressure from the Freedom Caucus off themselves tells you just how little they learned from the John Boehner debacle.

Best bet right now? By Friday, Congress ends up extending funding until December 18, and all these fights bleed into next week—and possibly beyond.

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