Politics & Government

‘Cromnibus’ in trouble? House vote delayed

The U.S. Capitol, April 5, 2014. (Tish Wells/McClatchy)
The U.S. Capitol, April 5, 2014. (Tish Wells/McClatchy) McClatchy

Is the ‘Cromnibus’ crumbling?

The House of Representatives was set to vote Thursday on the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown, but abruptly went into recess.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes there’s enough Democratic and Republican opposition to the bill that it wouldn’t pass. She’s using the time out to lobby her troops to hold firm in their opposition until the House Republican leadership agrees to strike two provisions from the bill that she and Democrats find odious.

The first is a provision that would change the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul by giving banks more freedom over their derivatives business, loosening controls put on after the 2008 financial crash.

The second would allow individuals to give to the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees far more than now permitted for recounts and other legal initiatives and the same amount for each committee’s building fund. This would be in addition to the current $32,400 limit.

‘It is clear from this recess on the floor that the Republicans don’t have enough votes to pass the Cromnibus,’ Pelosi wrote in a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter. ‘This increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision.’

‘However you decide to vote in the end, I thank those who continue to give us leverage to improve the bill,’ she added. ‘Stay tuned.’

Mike Long, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told The Hill newspaper that "Leadership teams are still talking to their respective membersA vote is still planned for this afternoon.’

The 1,600-page bill wraps 11 spending bill into one package that would fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2015. It also has a measure that would fund the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 27, 2015.

Republicans pushed for the short-term measure for Homeland Security to pressure or punish President Barack Obama for his November executive action that granted a temporary reprieve from deportation proceedings for more than four million immigrants living in the country illegally.

The 1,600-page bill provides $521 billion for defense and $492 billion for non-defense items, sticking to spending levels capped by a two-year agreement hammered out in December 2013 by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

It also contains Overseas Contingency Operations funding to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State and $5.4 billion in emergency funding to deal with the Ebola crisis domestically and overseas.

The Obama announced support for the bill Thursday, but not without complaints. It objected to the short-term funding for Homeland Security and the Dodd-Frank change.

Still, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the spending bill is "a compromise, and it does fulfill many of the top line priorities that the president has long identified."

The bill represents one of the final acts of the 113th Congress, considered one of the least productive in U.S. history. It’s been routinely criticized for its partisan acrimony and propensity for waiting until the very last minute for getting must-pass legislation done.

Thursday was no different. House and Senate appropriators spent months negotiating a long-term spending deal palatable to both parties only to watch things erode Thursday over provisions that riled ran-and-file lawmakers in both parties.

Liberal Democrats were incensed over the banking provision. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were rallying Democrats to rise against the banking provision.

Pelosi, before the sudden recess, said the bill had bipartisan support and instructed her Democratic charges to vote their conscience.

"It is clear that there is disagreement on both sides of the aisle about this bill," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "But it is also clear there could be a significant bipartisan majority to do what is a basic responsibility of this Congress to do – and that is fund government," Hoyer said.

But warning signs that the ‘Cromnibus’ was in trouble came during a vote on the rule on which it was to be debated. The rule passed 214-212, without a single Democrat voting yes.

Boehner desperately needs Democratic votes to get the ‘Cromnibus’ over the top because several Republicans have their own problems with it, mainly that it doesn’t do enough to enough to attack Obama’s immigration action.

Republicans such as Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Matt Salmon of Arizona argued that the Homeland Security funding measure is a fig leaf to appease tea party and conservative Republicans who want a tougher fiscal response to the immigration order.

Outside conservative groups such as Heritage Acton and the Club for Growth are also urging lawmakers to vote no on the bill, calling it another example of big-spending government run amok.

"Christmas has come early for the big spenders in Congress who have been experiencing long-term withdrawal from the earmark ban," Andrew Roth, the Club for Growth’s vice president of government affairs, wrote in a message sent to congressional offices this week. "Not only is the ‘Cromnibus’s’ contents unacceptable to fiscal conservatives, but so should the process by which it was made."



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