WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Democrats and
Republicans on Capitol Hill may need a few more days to resolve
differences over a $1 trillion U.S. spending bill, a top Democratic
lawmaker said on Tuesday, pushing passage by Congress up against a
government shutdown deadline next week.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski told reporters
that her hope to unveil the bill funding thousands of government
projects and programs on Wednesday was "a fading dream" amid the
After meeting with the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate
and House of Representatives Appropriations committees, she said
that the "omnibus" spending measure may take until the weekend to
That would allow little time to secure passage in the House and
Senate by January 15, when current government funding runs out.
Without a new spending bill or a stop-gap funding measure known as a
continuing resolution, the government faces a potential repeat of
the shutdown that hit federal agencies in October.
"Our first principle is that we get it done. We do not want a
continuing resolution," Mikulski said.
The spending bill is needed to implement a two-year budget deal that
was passed in December to ease some of the automatic "sequester"
spending cuts by providing an additional $45 billion in fiscal 2014
spending on military and domestic programs.
FROM MISSILES TO HEAD START
The omnibus measure combines all 12 of the normal spending bills — each covering different program areas — and the appropriations
committees are negotiating over thousands of individual budget
line-items — ranging from missile systems to the Head Start
pre-school programs for the poor.
While half of the spending bills are largely settled, negotiators
are still trying to limit the number of policy provisions known as
"riders" that are inserted into the bill.
Among these are Republican efforts to restrict abortions and
prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon
emissions, according to congressional aides.
Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, said there were also unresolved
issues surrounding the funding of financial regulatory efforts
created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Republican efforts to deny funds to implement Obamacare health
reforms are also unresolved.
"I'm against Obamacare. We're trying to undo it and kill it — defund
it and stop it in its tracks," said Senator Thad Cochran, a
Mississippi Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat on the panel who chairs the
subcommittee overseeing health and labor issues, said he believed
negotiators were close to a solution that could provide additional
funds for the health reforms, although less than the amount
requested by the Obama administration.
"Stay tuned. We're working this issue in a way that will be
acceptable to both sides," Harkin said.
A Senate Democratic aide said the spending bills that are largely
completed include those covering defense, military construction, the
Veterans Administration, commerce, justice and science agencies, the
legislative branch of government, transportation and housing.
These measures are traditionally less controversial than some
That leaves the more difficult bills, including labor, health and
human services, the State Department and foreign operations, energy
and water, the interior and the environment.
Mikulski said she believed that the bill was 90 percent completed,
but it would be difficult to reach consensus on the remaining 10
"An omnibus is big. It's a trillion dollars, 134 riders and it
carries the priorities of the nation," she added.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Susan Cornwell;
editing by Fred Barbash and Jan Paschal)