WASHINGTON ― Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reaffirmed her position Wednesday that Democrats would not go along with a House GOP plan to pass packages of spending legislation and then do a continuing resolution for other agencies.
Although Pelosi said in September that House Democrats would only go along with Speaker Paul Ryan’s idea to do so-called minibuses in the lame-duck session if it amounted to an omnibus, Pelosi took her hardest line yet against the plan during a press conference at Capitol Hill.
“If you want to do minibuses, they have to add up to an omnibus,” she said. “But to do a minibus and a CR is like two derelictions of duty.”
“This is really too cute,” Pelosi added.
Republicans have been planning on packaging spending bills together when lawmakers return after Election Day. The idea is that, while there may not be enough time to do the remaining appropriations bills, it could be possible to combine similar spending measures and pass them in groups. And if there were a few bills that couldn’t make it through Congress, lawmakers could pass a CR for those programs.
Democrats have always been hesitant about that plan, fearing that Republicans would pass a defense bill with more money than initially agreed to in last year’s spending deal, and then say there isn’t enough money for other domestic programs.
“That’s the only reason to talk about a minibus, if you want to have a bus too small to carry all the folks,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters in September.
But Ryan has been adamant that this is just a way to get back to some form of regular order. He’s been clear that he doesn’t want to do an omnibus bill ― an all-encompassing spending deal ― and he’s said that if Democrats were unwilling to go along with the plan, “we’ll do another CR.”
There is, of course, another possibility.
One scenario that Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) laid out to The Huffington Post recently is that the House takes the remaining appropriations bills, packages them into two or three measures, passes them, and then the Senate combines them into one omnibus.
“Ultimately what’s going to happen is the House and Senate are going to be passing an omnibus spending bill,” Ribble said.
Although Ribble didn’t go into the specifics, the House could pass instructions for the Senate to combine the bills into one omnibus, meaning the House would never have to actually ― technically ― vote for one year-end spending deal, as long as the Senate passed one bill that exactly mirrored those smaller House bills.
That plan may stretch the definition of not passing an omnibus, but it would seem to get around some of the concerns Democrats have about stiffing some programs, and still meet Ryan’s no-omnibus-bill decree. Sort of.
Still, with Pelosi seeming to take a hard line on the minibus plan, if Democrats aren’t certain that their priorities will be met in an eventual omnibus, it seems that leaders are headed for a showdown that could end up producing yet another CR that pushes off spending decisions into a new Congress.
Arthur Delaney and Jason Linkins contributed reporting.