A Senate Democratic aide said Republicans in the House of
Representatives were insisting on including policy language aimed at
restricting abortions, as well as prohibiting the Environmental
Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.
A spokeswoman for Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman
Hal Rogers declined to comment on specific issues in the
negotiations, which have been underway for nearly three weeks.
It was unclear whether any of the remaining policy differences would
cause a breakdown in talks to carve up the $1.012 trillion in
spending on government agencies and discretionary programs for
At this point, Democratic and Republican aides said appropriators
have not discussed any plans for an alternative stop-gap funding
measure known as a "continuing resolution" — even one as short as a
few days to avoid a repetition of the 16-day government agency
shutdown in October.
"They're not even talking about that. It indicates that their full
energies are being put into meeting the deadline, not a fallback
plan," a House Democratic aide said.
The two-year budget deal, signed into law on December 26 by
President Barack Obama, provides modest relief from automatic
"sequester" spending cuts this year, allowing the appropriations
committees to carve up an additional $45 billion for government
agencies and programs ranging from national parks to the military.
The increased near-term spending, $63 billion over two years, is
more than offset by $85 billion in longer-term savings from cuts to
military and federal worker pensions, increased airport security
fees for passengers and other savings.
Other sources of friction in the negotiations have included
Republican opposition to funding increases for "Obamacare" health
insurance reforms and funding for controversial high speed rail
projects in California.
Appropriations committee staff worked through the Christmas and New
Year holidays to prepare a bill that could pass both the House and
Senate before funding runs out again on January 15 and made "a lot
of progress," said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Senate
Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat.
"We definitely hope to arrive at an agreement this week," Morris
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he was "afraid"
that House Republicans would derail the spending bill.
"Two thirds of the people in the House of Representatives are
Republicans who voted to close the government, keep it closed more
than 16 days and default on our debt," Reid told CBS' Face the
"I mean, I want this to pass. I hope it does. It should, that we
have an omnibus appropriations bill. But I don't know."
The budget deal, however, passed on a strong bipartisan vote of
332-94 in the House.
The spending bill will be followed in a few months by another, more
consequential fiscal deadline, when Congress needs to approve
another increase in the federal debt limit, likely by March or
April. Failure to do so could eventually mean a damaging default on
U.S. debt payments, throwing global financial markets into turmoil.
Heritage Action, an influential conservative group that opposed the
December budget deal, urged Republican lawmakers on Monday to stand
firm on conservative policy provisions in the spending bill.
"While the budget number represents a spending limit, meaning
Congress can (and should) spend well below that number in upcoming
appropriations, there are policy provisions the House should be
demanding in negotiations right now as part of any omnibus package
of appropriations bills regardless of the ultimate top-line number,"
the group said in a blog posting on its website.
(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Andre Grenon)
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