Congress Runs Up Against Deadline To Pass A Budget
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
A vote that was expected today in the House on a funding bill to keep the government open has been delayed. The bill is known as the cromnibus, as in CR for continuing resolution and omnibus as in omnibus spending bill. There's been adamant opposition to the current legislation from both parties. Conservative Republicans wanted to use the bill to push back on the president's executive action on immigration, but they didn't think it pushed back enough. And Democrats were enraged at several policy changes that had been tucked into the 1,600 page spending bill. With us now to talk about the day's drama is NPR Congressional reporter Ailsa Chang, and, Ailsa, things look a little dicey right now. Do we know why House leaders postponed the vote?
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Well, right now the most likely explanation is because the bill is in trouble. House Republican leaders knew they needed a lot of Democrats to go along with this bill because so many conservative Republicans had been saying they're not supporting any measure that funds the president's executive action, even for a few months, and that's what this measure does. Democratic support for the bill started peeling off when the final language came out Tuesday night. There were a few policy provisions that really angered Democrats.
SIEGEL: OK, before you get to the details of those provisions - there were already signs that this bill was in trouble earlier today, no?
CHANG: That's right. It was funny. This morning Speaker John Boehner said that if this bill doesn't pass, we'd all be here till Christmas. And then in the bill's first procedural vote this morning, it looked like the bill was actually going to fail in a tie. But Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan swooped in to cast the deciding vote by switching his no vote to a yes vote. Now, of course, Bentivolio is a reindeer farmer so the storyline of the day, just hours ago, was that a reindeer farmer helped save Christmas for everyone.
SIEGEL: (Laughter) OK, but maybe that reindeer farmer cannot save the day, after all. Tell us about why Democrats are so angry with this spending bill.
CHANG: Well, two provisions getting the most pushback have to do with campaign finance and bank regulations. On campaign finance, there's a measure that would dramatically increase how much donors can give to political parties. Right now a person can give just under a $100,000 a year to a party through its various committees, and under this bill that cap goes up to almost $800,000. But the provision on bank oversight is really getting the most anger from House Democrats right now. The measure rolls back some of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. It lets banks engage in riskier trades while they're covered by federal insurance. Now, House Democrats say they're angry because this is a Wall Street-friendly measure that was negotiated between House Republicans and Senate Democrats. So House Democrats say they were shut out, but Speaker John Boehner pushed back on that.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: It was agreed to in this bill on a bipartisan, bicameral agreement. And so while some members may have objected to this issue or that issue, nobody did this unilaterally. We've done this in a bipartisan fashion, and frankly, it's a good bill.
SIEGEL: But as you say, House Democrats don't buy that, and even so, Pres. Obama said that he supports the overall bill.
CHANG: That's right, but Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader, doesn't care. She has been furiously attacking the banking measure. She's demanding that it be taken out of the bill. She says she wasn't at the negotiating table. So now we're just waiting to see what House leadership is going to do about this. This current bill would have funded the entire federal government through next September, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would've been funded just through the end of February. But if House leaders don't have the votes for this bill, they may just try to pass instead a short-term spending measure to last just a few months. And, of course, by next year, both chambers will be controlled by Republicans, so Democrats, who say they've had so little leverage this time around, will be in an even worse situation next year.
SIEGEL: OK, that's NPR Congressional reporter, Ailsa Chang.
CHANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.