POLITICS

Congress Ready To Pass Massive Spending Bill That Nobody Especially Likes

The good news is, the government probably won't shut down.

WASHINGTON -- It took days of closed-door talks, but Congress finally did it: It came up with a massive, $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government funded through next September. There are plenty of changes lawmakers would still like to make, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that nothing in life is perfect. 

“In divided government, you don’t get everything you want,” Ryan told reporters. “Republicans didn’t get all that we wanted. Democrats didn’t get all that [they] wanted. This is a bipartisan compromise.”

The House is expected to vote Friday on the massive spending package before lawmakers go home for the year. Ryan said he understood some lawmakers didn’t like aspects of the bill. “But that is the compromise that we have,” he said. “And I do believe that … we’ll have bipartisan votes on both of these bills.”

Republicans almost certainly need Democratic help to pass the spending bill. Some conservatives have seemed eager to vote against the 2,009-page bill before it was even released, just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

Democratic leaders had a mixed reaction to the spending package, but gave no signs they'd vote against it. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said lawmakers were still reviewing it, but that many had concerns with lifting a ban on crude oil exports and not providing help to Puerto Rico in the midst of a debt crisis.

A Democratic aide told The Huffington Post that Pelosi was pushing for a minor change to a refinery provision in the oil export ban portion of the bill to help some mid-Atlantic refineries.

"I can’t preclude the possibility of other things coming up for the manager’s amendment given the size of the bill, but the entire negotiation is not going to be reopened nor is that what we are pushing for," the aide said. 

Pelosi saved her harshest words for the other massive bill unveiled late Tuesday night, the tax extenders package. That bill, which extends roughly 50 tax breaks that expire at the end of every year, would cost more than $700 billion over 10 years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

It’s "practically an immorality," Pelosi said of the tax package, tapping Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to explain why.

"It undermines tax reform, which every member says they want to see. It undermines the investment in the future and in jobs and in growth in our economy," Hoyer said. "And lastly, it makes almost sure that we will have to continue some type of disinvestment in our country because of lack of resources."

He said the House should reject the tax package and instead pass a two-year placeholder bill to give lawmakers time to craft a comprehensive tax reform plan.

Democratic votes aren’t as in demand on the tax bill as they are on the government funding bill. The plan all along has been for House Republicans to do the heavy lifting on the tax package and for House Democrats to provide the brunt of the votes on the spending bill -- and then combine the measures into one big vote in the Senate.

While Democrats could refuse to support the spending package and hold out for a better deal, both sides are claiming victories in it. Democrats point out that Republicans did not get language blocking Syrian refugees from coming to the United States. Republicans point out that they got the oil export ban lifted.

“Do you know what that does for our foreign policy? What that does for job creators? What that does for infrastructure?” Ryan said. “It’s huge.”

He was less than excited about the hasty, 11th-hour negotiations that produced the spending package. “Let me be the first to say it: I don’t think this is the way government should work,” he said. “This is not how appropriations should work.”

But Ryan noted that he inherited this situation from his predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and said he wanted to fund the government through the regular appropriations process going forward, which entails passing 12 individual spending bills for different divisions of government.

“This is a process I do not want to see Congress repeat,” he said.

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