So much to do, so little time before the federal government runs out of money.
Once again, Congress is faced with a deadline to act on a massive government spending bill. And once again, it looks as if the House of Representatives and Senate will wait until the last minute to get it done.
With the rapidly clock ticking toward a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers aren’t hung up on the bill’s $1.1 trillion price tag. Instead, they’re squabbling over whether an array of issues – from gun control to Syrian refugees to taxes – will be part of the massive package.
Here’s a look at some of the key sticking points vexing congressional negotiators.
We're adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit permanently. If the tax package is folded into the spending bill, I wouldn’t vote for it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
In the wake of the terrorism-linked mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, congressional Democrats are aggressively pushing for action to toughen the nation’s gun laws.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted last week that a provision lifting a 19-year ban on federal funding for research into gun violence should be part of the omnibus bill, which has received a chilly response from Republicans.
SYRIAN REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT
Republicans on Capitol Hill and outside conservative groups argue that the spending bill should include language that would hamper President Barack Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States.
Following reports that one of the suspects in the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last month entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee, the House voted 289-137 on a bill sponsored by Reps. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that would prevent refugees from Syria and Iraq from entering the U.S. unless the heads of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence certify that each refugee doesn’t pose a threat to the U.S.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has threatened to block the bill, and Obama said he’d veto it if it reached his desk. So supporters want to exercise the power of the purse to halt the flow of Syrian refugees.
“Right now it is in the omnibus. If it’s taken out, I think it will lose votes,“ McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a breakfast hosted last week by The Christian Science Monitor. “It’s an important issue to many of us and they want to see it in there.”
Lawmakers have been negotiating a package to extend or make permanent expiring tax breaks that may or may not become part of the omnibus spending bill. The so-called “tax extenders” could cost more than $800 billion over 10 years.
Republicans want several tax breaks, such as credit for research and development and small business expensing, made permanent. They also want to lift a 40-year ban on crude oil exports as part of the deal.
Democrats are railing against GOP desires to have the crude oil ban lifted and Republicans are against Democratic calls for the child tax credit to be indexed to inflation. The stalemate prompted Pelosi to blast the tax extenders deal Friday.
“Evidently the Republican deficit hawks are endangered species now,” she said. “We’re adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit permanently. If the tax package is folded into the spending bill, I wouldn’t vote for it.”
She added: “And I wouldn’t recommend that anybody else vote for it, so that’s not a way to keep government open. Unless they have all the Republican votes to do it.”