FY 2016 Omnibus Talks (Dec. 10)

Mike & Co. – 

The annual session-end crunch is on in Congress, with several big-ticket items under negotiation. As predictable as this yearly jam is, the outcomes are not at this stage. Congress is searching for just the right mix of provisions and bills until a permutation that can guarantee passage is found.  Until then, the negotiators continue to try combinations of the puzzle pieces.   

To appreciate how few people have a grip on the current state of the overall negotiations at any given time, Sen. Klobuchar tracked down an out-of-breath Chuck Schumer at the Senate gym to get an update to report to a DSCC breakfast today.  

 The most important pieces are the 40-plus omnibus riders — substantive policy provisions, as opposed to appropriation amounts — and the 50-plus extenders currently in play.  Given the interest expressed in the key riders on the block, I itemize those below and give a snapshot of where the discussions stand. 

NB: the negotiations will not include Senate Banking Chair Shelby’s comprehensive financial regulatory bill.  He has not put up the white flag, but members and staffers are all saying that Shelby 2.0 is dead both as a standalone and as an omnibus rider.  

Dana

———-

FY 2016 negotiations are continuing into the night tonight and only one thing is certain.  We will certainly see a CR passed and signed tomorrow, giving negotiators until next Wednesday the 16th — otherwise the government shuts at midnight Friday.   It is possible, though unlikely, that we will see a draft omnibus or extenders package, or both.  Either way, it will be a working weekend for the negotiators.

When Congress is under pressure to pass several big-ticket items in a short period of time, it tries to determine if it can buy more time. Speaker Ryan made it clear — no adjournment until a full-year FY 2016 budget deal is done, no CR extending tables into January, as some in the House Freedom Caucus had been seeking. No shutdown. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has long held this position.

With as little time as Congress has to pass a budget, the negotiators start by identifying the non-starter provisions on the table.  These are “ideological” or “poison pill” omnibus riders.  An example would be anything the president has promised to veto.  None of the tax extenders are seen as non-negotiable.

So the negotiators — Congressional leadership, the Chairs of key committees such as appropriations, staff, and members of the administration — then buy off the non-negotiable items from their advocates with acceptable alternatives until the none of the bill’s provisions would deprive it of a majority.

The important remaining provisions are then paired off — with D and R provisions matched on the basis or priority to the proponents and votes it might sway if included in final passage.

So which are the biggest pieces still on the board right now and where do they stand on it?

Democratic priorities:

  • Expanding EITC and the Child Tax Credit
  • Adding new college tax credit
  • Extending 9/11 first responder health benefits

Republican  priorities:

  • Blocking the DOL Fiduciary Rule
  • Defunding sanctuary cities
  • Overturning President Obama’s immigration executive orders
  • Overturning EPA greenhouse emissions regulations
  • Regulating inland waterways
  • Easing campaign finance restrictions (pushed by McConnell)

Other key items still in the mix:

  • Lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports
  • Reforming Visa waiver policy

Off the table:

  • Defunding Planned Parenthood
  • Shelby 2.0, per the above
  • Indexation of the Child Tax Credit
  • Blocking refugee resettlement from Syria or Iraq
  • a very long-shot attempt to move an online sales tax compromise

The Democrats have a tacit advantage in the negotiations. Almost everyone believes that a shutdown would be particularly costly to the GOP, so the Republicans need to keep their Democratic counterparts at the table.

Furthermore, Speaker Ryan may need a substantial number of Democratic votes to get a budget passed in the House. The budget on which the bill will be modeled passed, 178 Democrats supporting it, with only 79 GOP votes.

The extenders package, which is much simpler and smaller than the omnibus (at most $700 billion over ten years vs. $1.1 trillion to be spent before September 30), might well be completed before the omnibus and therefore could be combined with it.

Stay tuned.

 

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