Lawmakers Scramble To Pass Sprawling Spending Bill Before Christmas

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Congress has until December 23rd to approve and vote on a huge spending package that will keep the federal government funded through the fiscal years. This is after both chambers adopted a stopgap extension earlier in the week to give more time for negotiations.

Staff on both sides are busy this weekend distributing spending allocations to all 12 Subcommittees. This will help to prepare the final Omnibus Package, which is due to be revealed Monday afternoon.

This week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CO, and Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and Richard Shelby (R-AL), announced that they had reached a framework agreement for the legislation’s development. They all expressed optimism that they could complete the bill and pass it before Congress departs for Christmas.

As Congress attempts to address a Biden administration request for $3.5B to assist the Department of Homeland Security in handling a large influx of immigrant refugees at the southern border, there are still some details that Congress needs to resolve. The border situation has remained a key political issue.

Roll Call was informed by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a member of the homeland security rank committee, that Republicans are worried about funding the border with emergency funds without any additional “deterrence” measures to stop the influx.

Shelby, the Senate Appropriations Ranking Member, couldn’t answer reporters’ questions about border funding. He said that negotiators had not yet “crystallized all”

“Leadership will have to play with this sort of thing. The Electoral College Act was approved. Shelby said that there might be tax extenders. This was before the Washington Examiner voted on a short-term continuing resolution in order to keep the government afloat for a further week.

Shelby, who will be retiring at the end this term, said earlier in the week that appropriators were “basically negociating with House Democrats” and that some House Republicans had not shown the same interest in getting an Omnibus. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R. CA) opposed a larger spending bill and preferred to hold off until next year when Republicans are the majority in Congress and have greater control over the budget.

“We know that funding the government while we’re here is the best option, regardless of whether you’re retired or have five more years. Shelby said that the problem is still the same. Shelby said that you must give and take. There are many things in the bill — that I don’t like and that I wouldn’t vote for. Let’s not forget about the military, veterans and safety nets that protect people.

McCarthy’s opposition stands in stark contrast to Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R.KY), who stated earlier this week that the Senate should approve omnibus by Thursday night next week. McConnell stated that if the bill is not approved, senators will not return to Congress over the holidays and would support another continuing resolution until early next year.

Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader (D-MD), stated Friday that the House would return to session on Dec. 21 pending Senate action regarding the Omnibus. The House will remain in session until the bill’s completion.