Lawmakers scramble to pass sprawling spending bill before Christmas

Richard Shelby
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Lawmakers scramble to pass sprawling spending bill before Christmas

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Congress has until Dec. 23 to complete and vote on a massive spending package to keep the federal government funded through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, after lawmakers in both chambers passed a stopgap extension earlier this week to allow more time for negotiations.

Appropriations committee leaders and staff on both sides of the Capitol are working through the weekend, distributing final spending allocations to all 12 subcommittees, which will prepare the final omnibus package, set to be unveiled Monday afternoon.

Earlier this week, the top House appropriator, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CO), and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced they had reached a framework agreement to begin drafting the legislation. All of them expressed optimism that the bill could be completed and passed before Congress leaves for Christmas.

SENATE PASSES ONE-WEEK STOPGAP AS CONGRESS RACES TO COMPLETE YEARLONG SPENDING BILL

There are still some unsettled details with emergency funding that Congress is trying to hash out as lawmakers attempt to respond to a recent Biden administration request for $3.5 billion to help the Department of Homeland Security handle a major influx of immigrants at the southern border over the last year. The situation at the border has continued to be a major political flashpoint.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the homeland security ranking member, told Roll Call that Republicans are concerned about providing emergency funding for the border without additional “deterrence” measures to stop the influx of immigrants.

When asked about the border funding by reporters, Shelby, the Senate appropriations ranking member, was unable to elaborate further, saying negotiators have not “crystallized everything yet.”

“Leadership is going to have to play with that sort of thing. The Electoral College Act got in. There might be some tax extenders,” Shelby told the Washington Examiner on Thursday night before voting on a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government afloat for another week.

Earlier in the week, Shelby, who is retiring at the end of this term, told reporters appropriators were “basically negotiating with House Democrats and Democrats here because some of the House Republicans have not shown as much interest in getting an omnibus.” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has objected to a larger spending bill, preferring to delay the debate until next year, when Republicans are in the majority in the House and have more sway over the budget.

“We know the best thing to do is to fund the government while we are here, whether you’re retiring or whether you got five more years. The problem remains the same,” Shelby told reporters. “You have to give and take. There are a lot of things in the bill that will be — that I don’t like and I wouldn’t vote for. But, military, veterans, safety nets for people — let’s do it.”

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McCarthy’s opposition to the bill stands in contrast to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who said earlier this week that the Senate should approve the omnibus by Thursday evening next week. If the bill is not completed, McConnell said senators would not return to Congress after the holidays and that they would support another continuing resolution into early next year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Friday that the House will return on Dec. 21, pending Senate action on the omnibus, and will stay in session until the bill is completed.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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