A Week Away From Government Shutdown, Senate Set to Take Up Omnibus

By Jared

Dec 10, 2010 3:54pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: For all the talk about taxes lately, the Senate’s only must-do issue in the lame-duck session is extending government funding into next year, a fight that appears set to take place late next week. Senators are up against a clear deadline: the latest continuing resolution to keep the government running ends at 12:01am on Sunday Dec. 19th. Either Congress acts before then or there is a federal shutdown. The House has already acted. On Wednesday the lower chamber of Congress passed a new continuing resolution worth $1.1 trillion to fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year. The House bill contains a two-year freeze on federal civilian worker pay, resolves revenue discrepancies with the Senate’s food safety bill, includes a provision that bans the transfer of terrorism suspects from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the US, provides $513 billion overall for the Pentagon, and freezes discretionary spending at 2010 levels. But the Senate next week is likely to amend the bill into a $1.1 trillion omnibus measure crafted by Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill will reportedly provide around $20 billion more than the House one. The Senate Democrats’ expected omnibus push has already met with opposition from Republican leadership. “One thing we’ll need to do before we leave this year is fund the government because Democrats didn’t pass a single appropriations bill this year,” the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor on Nov. 18. “Now they’ll try to mop up in the 11th hour with an omnibus spending bill that covers all of it. This is one more sign they aren’t learning many lessons from the election.” “If this election showed us anything, it’s that Americans don’t want Congress passing massive trillion dollars bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors,” McConnell said. “They want us to do business differently, so I won’t be supporting an omnibus spending bill.” Despite McConnell’s opposition, the bill may gain enough Republican support to pass. Specifically, Republican members of the Appropriations panel like Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have broken with leadership and expressed openness to the measure. In addition, Democrats may be hoping to win GOP support for the bill by wooing outgoing Republicans like George Voinovich, Kit Bond, and Bob Bennett with earmarks for their states. The three moderate Republicans from New England – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts – are also viewed as possible votes in favor of the omnibus. That is not to say passing the sweeping measure will be easy – some Senate Democrats such as Russ Feingold of Wisconsin could break with their party and oppose the bill. Whatever happens, it will have to happen fast. The Senate is set to have its first procedural vote on the tax bill next Monday, so it is likely that the chamber will not take up the omnibus until Wednesday at the earliest. That would mean that both the Senate and the House would have to pass it by the end of Saturday if lawmakers are to avert a government shutdown. –Matthew Jaffe

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