Waiting for the Omnibus: Clock Is Ticking on $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill

Waiting for the Omnibus: Clock Is Ticking on $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Get ready for another 11th-hour scramble on a spending bill. “The $1.2 trillion dollar spending bill that Congress needs to pass by next week has gotten bogged down in haggling over details and added provisions, pushing a vote closer to the deadline to keep the government operating,” Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Congress must pass a spending bill by March 23 to avert a third government shutdown this year, but the legislation isn’t out yet. Politico reports that it might not come out until the weekend or even next week “after Republicans scrapped tentative plans to get it out Wednesday night.”

Congressional leaders and the White House are reportedly still sorting out what will be included in the omnibus spending package. Politico’s John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris detailed the major areas of ongoing contention: “$900 million in funding for the Gateway project in New York City” — a major passenger rail project under the Hudson River — "which is being insisted on by the New York and New Jersey delegations but has drawn a private veto threat from President Donald Trump; deportation relief for young undocumented immigrants and Trump's request for a border wall between the United States and Mexico; a prohibition on U.S. funding for international groups that provide abortion services and funding for Planned Parenthood; Obamacare stabilization funds; and a tax provision that would allow churches and nonprofits to participate in political campaigns.”

Whew. That’s some list to work through. And the clock is ticking.

Republicans in Congress “expressed frustration with the lack of a clear message from the White House” on an immigration fix, The Hills reports, after the administration floated and quickly shot down the idea of extending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children in exchange for funding for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

The administration, meanwhile, is encouraging congressional conservatives to push for a provision in the omnibus bill that would prevent sanctuary cities from receiving federal funds, according to Vox. “With the White House’s backing, their resistance could pressure House Speaker Paul Ryan, even if he doesn’t want to inject additional controversy into the spending debate,” Tara Golshan writes. But such a provision stands no chance in the Senate, where Democratic votes would be needed to pass the omnibus bill, making it unlikely that defunding sanctuary cities will be part of the final spending measure.

Just how far Trump will press on his immigration priorities is unclear, though, and he could, in theory, raise the risk of another shutdown. “This spending bill is again shaping up to ignore Trump’s immigration priorities,” Golshan writes, “and it’s possible the president could threaten a veto again.”