By Scott Wong - 12/06/14 06:00 AM EST
House conservatives are griping that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is putting the squeeze on them by rushing through a $1 trillion spending bill in Congress’s last week in session.
Appropriators are expected to roll out the legislation early next week, giving critics scant time to figure out what’s inside before they cast their votes by the end of the week. The government would shut down on Dec. 12 without a new funding bill.
Boehner critics say there’s no reason the Speaker couldn’t have brought the spending package to the floor this past week, giving the House more time to consider it.
But doing so would also give more time for the right to build a case against it.
“They don’t want you to read it, that’s why! You think they want you to analyze all the mischievous items in there?” Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told The Hill.
Asked if the timing of the plan was aimed at jamming the Senate or House conservatives, Jones replied: “I think its aimed at screwing over the American people. You can quote me on that.”
Pushing a government funding bill through Congress at the 11th hour is nothing new.
What’s striking this time, however, is that Boehner and outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are mostly in agreement on how to do it.
And the Speaker, fresh off a big midterm victory, seems in no mood to kowtow to conservatives who’ve been agitating for a lame-duck spending fight to stop President Obama’s executive action on immigration.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the legislation will be unveiled on Monday, setting up a likely House vote on Wednesday — just one day before money runs out for the government.
Boehner and Rogers blame the Senate for the bill’s timing.
The House passed seven of the 12 appropriations bills this Congress, while eleven passed out of committee. The Senate passed zero.
“And as a result, it makes it that much more difficult to come to an agreement with the Senate on an omnibus appropriations package,” Boehner told reporters on Thursday.
Rogers also pointed the finger at the upper chamber and said House negotiators were doing “the best we can.”
“Look, we were given less than a month to put an omnibus bill together for the entire government for the entire year — it’s a trillion plus dollars with thousands of items,” Rogers said. “And since the Senate did not pass any of the appropriations bills, it forced us to put together an omnibus.”
While work on the package will continue this weekend, the general framework is known.
Most of the government will be funded in an 11-bill omnibus running through the end of the fiscal year in September. The Homeland Security Department would be kept on a shorter leash, funded with a short-term continuing resolution that would keep money flowing only until February. The combination is being called the “cromnibus.”
The short-term funding for Homeland Security is intended to push the fight over Obama’s immigration actions into next year, when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress.
Boehner signaled it's unlikely he'll make any significant changes to the package’s framework, ignoring demands by immigration hard-liners to include language to de-fund the implementation of Obama’s immigration actions, which could give legal status to up to five million undocumented workers.
GOP leaders appear to have much of their conference behind them, though many conservatives are expected to vote no.
“I think the fix is in,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) told The Hill.
He wanted GOP leaders to bring the spending package to the floor this past week with stronger immigration language. That way, the House would have had time to respond to any changes the Senate made to the legislation.
Boehner instead called a vote Thursday on a messaging bill that rebukes Obama’s immigration move, a measure the Senate will not take up.
“I’ve implored them. I’ve begged them. I’ve spoken in various meetings so that we wouldn’t be up against some crisis. … This is not the way it’s supposed to be done,” Salmon said.
Some conservatives acknowledge that they’ll have no chance of blocking the cromnibus if House Democrats decide to get on board. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Republicans Friday not to bog down the package with “destructive” riders, including proposals to roll back environmental regulations or halt a new law that legalizes marijuana in D.C.
But sources in both parties said they expect a good number of Democrats to cross the aisle and vote for the spending plan in the end. Especially since it’s based on months of work from House and Senate appropriators from both parties.
“I believe we need to fund the government through Sept. 30. If not, it will be very chaotic next year,” said retiring Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a House appropriator who is leaning toward voting for the plan. “An omnibus bill is a lot better than a CR or continuing resolution. So this is the best of two worlds.”