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Talks slow as government funding deadline looms

The Buzz with Buzz: Government shutdown or government breakdown?

Congress has extended its deadline to compromise on the budget before the government "shuts down." But when a government shutdown looms, the conflict is rarely about a "clash of values" — as McClatchy Bureau Editor Steven "Buzz" Thomma explains, i
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Congress has extended its deadline to compromise on the budget before the government "shuts down." But when a government shutdown looms, the conflict is rarely about a "clash of values" — as McClatchy Bureau Editor Steven "Buzz" Thomma explains, i

Before he departed Washington for political retirement, then-House Speaker John Boehner said he wanted to “clean the barn” legislatively to smooth the path for new Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan-R-Wis., and his fellow congressional leaders still have some heavy shoveling to do as members of the House of Representatives and Senate race – well, almost – to keep the federal government functioning beyond Friday and avert a partial shutdown.

With the clock rapidly ticking, lawmakers in both parties conceded that they won’t make the Dec. 11 deadline for the must-pass omnibus spending bill. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., introduced a short-term continuing resolution - or CR- Wednesday to keep the federal government flush with cash until midnight on Dec. 16 and prevent a partial shutdown.

“This short-term funding resolution will keep the lights on in government and maintain current operations for a few days so Congress can complete and pass an agreement,” Rogers said. “It is my hope and expectation that a final, year-long bill will be enacted before this new deadline.”

The Obama administration earlier in the day said that lawmakers have had more than enough time to hammer out their differences on the spending bill. Blaming Republicans for what he calls their insistence on inserting “ideological riders” into the budget process, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama has no interest in signing a short-term deal.

“The president is not going to sign a continuing resolution that gives them additional weeks or months to negotiate an agreement,” Earnest said.

It was unclear late Wednesday whether Obama would be more accepting of Rogers’ five-day extension.

Congressional lawmakers are stuck on an array of issues, including whether language restricting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, environmental policy and other key issues will be included in the massive $1.1 trillion spending measure.

“We’re going to make sure that members of Congress and, therefore, the public have the time to read what is agreed to, but we’re not going to let the arbitrary December 11th deadline stop us from getting this right,” Ryan told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to get the best agreement we can possibly get, and those negotiations are ongoing.”

The talks are proving to be a challenge. Wednesday, Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters that the omnibus would likely lose Republican votes if language placing restrictions on Syrian refugees entering the U.S. is stripped out.

“Right now it is in the omnibus. If it’s taken out, I think it will lose votes,” McCaul told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, as reported by The Hill. “It’s an important issue to many of us and they want to see it in there.”

The House voted 289-137 last month on a bill sponsored by McCaul and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., that would prevent refugees from Syria and Iraq from entering the United States unless the heads of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security nd the director of National Intelligence certify that each refugee doesn’t pose a threat to the U.S.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, even though it passed with a bipartisan veto-proof majority. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has suggested that he’ll block it in the upper chamber.

“We’re ever hopeful that we can reach a compromise, but right now we’re at a place where there is much more work to be done,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday on PBS’s “Charlie Rose.” “But a spending bill like this: Democratic president, Republican Congress, large number of Democrats in the House to sustain the president’s veto of such a bill gives us all a place at the table.”  

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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