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Spending Bill in Limbo

Spending Bill in Limbo

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - December 11, 2014

It appears Congress is sticking to the dramatic pre-holiday script after all. Earlier this week, passage of a massive and complicated $1.1 trillion bill that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown appeared likely. Now, on deadline day, the measure is in limbo.

But this time, the roles are reversed. Democrats are revolting against a provision in the bipartisan bill that would tweak an element of the financial reform law and are withholding necessary support for the overall measure. The White House and Nancy Pelosi are at odds, and passage of the bill is in jeopardy.

Signs of trouble began Thursday afternoon, when the measure overcame a procedural hurdle by just one vote. No Democrats backed the rule vote, and 16 Republicans defected. Two Republicans switched their votes to affirmative, slightly easing the task ahead for House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders. But final passage scheduled for the afternoon was delayed, after it became clear leadership did not have enough votes for a successful outcome.

Afterward, the White House announced its support for the measure, while opposing several provisions, and began reaching out to Democratic lawmakers for support. “The Administration appreciates the bipartisan effort to include full-year appropriations legislation for most government functions,” read the statement.

The measure would fund all agencies through September of 2015 except for the Department of Homeland Security. DHS funding would run out by March. Republicans are hoping to push back next year on President Obama’s immigration order.

But Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wasn’t having it, calling the bill “ransom” and “blackmail.”

“I'm enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this and that would be the only reason they would sign such a bill that would weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk,” Pelosi said on the House floor.

Pelosi later sent a memo to her Democratic colleagues, arguing that Democrats had the upper hand because Republicans didn’t have enough votes. “This increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision,” she said. “However you decide to vote in the end, I thank those who continue to give us leverage to improve the bill.”

But Democrats may not have as much leverage as Pelosi claims. House Republicans are preparing a short-term budget resolution that would keep the government running until next year, when a new, Republican-controlled Congress can address appropriations. That option would be less favorable to Democrats, as the GOP could craft legislation to its liking. In other words, this bill may be the best Democrats can get at this point. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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