Unable to complete action on a FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires today, Congress passed a short-term CR until Wednesday, December 16. The Senate passed the CR on Thursday by voice vote and the House approved the bill today by a voice vote.
The White House has said the president would sign a short-term extension (a few days) if Congress had reached an agreement and needed more time to finish details and draft the bill.
On introducing the bill, House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) said “While progress is being made on negotiations for a full-year Omnibus appropriations bill, it is clear that more time I needed to complete the package.” Rogers said he hoped the bill can be completed before the new CR expires.
Senate Appropriations Committee chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) also expressed confidence on progress toward completion of the Omnibus bill. “Our negotiations are progressing steadily, and I expect that Senators will soon be able to consider a bill that will meet the funding needs for our national defense and other priorities,” he said.
Negotiators have been working for weeks to reach an agreement on an Omnibus bill that includes all 12 appropriations bills. However, the roadblock has been the Republican's desire to include as many as 40 policy riders (legislative provisions that are not related to the bill) and the Democrats refusal to accept most of them. However, the Democrats also have policy riders they want to include.
Republicans prepared a proposal that included riders that the Democrats consider “poison pills, particularly imposing restrictions on Syrian immigrants (possibly including the House-passed bill restricting VISA waivers) and weakening Dodd-Frank reforms. Both would surely bring a presidential veto. But, Democrats are also concerned about other policy riders such as provisions blocking rules on power-plant emissions, changing Labor department rules on retirement accounts and clean water rules, and loosening financial system regulations.
Even so, Democrats also want to include their own policy riders such as repealing the ban on gun violence study by the Center for Disease Control.
Both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid a government shutdown and express cautious optimism that a deal can be reached by next week. But, they acknowledge that negotiations are in a delicate stage, requiring some give by each side to reach a conclusion.
Congress also is working to complete action on some 50 expiring tax credits (so-called tax extenders) that will expire on December 31 before adjourning. These tax credits include individual tax deductions, business incentives (e.g. research and development and new equipment purchases credits), and energy tax credits. Republicans are pushing to include an end to the ban on crude oil exports. Democrats and the the administration want permanent tax credits for low income families and tax credits for renewable energy projects.
House Democrats oppose many long-term or permanent tax credits because of the cost. It is estimated that extending many tax credits would cost $100 billion or more (for 10 years), but that amount could grow to over $700 billion if some credits were made permanent. If such permanent credits are included in the final bill House Democrats won't support it, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.
The House and Senate will reconvene on Monday, but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that House votes would not be held until Tuesday evening. If a deal on the FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill is reached this weekend, Congress could act on it by December 16. However, if the negotiations drag out, another CR extension will be needed.