Capitol Hill is breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Both issues – the payroll tax cut and the spending bill – that threatened to shut down the government have been all but solved. There will be no government shutdown.
“Everyone doesn’t have to worry about the government closing today,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Friday morning.
Agreement came from the Senate Republican leader.
“I think everybody should be reassured that’s not going to happen,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoed. “The conference report has been signed and we’re moving toward completing the basic work of government through next September 30th very shortly.”
A short time later, by a bipartisan vote of 296-121, the House of Representatives passed the conference report that bundled nine appropriations bills in the form of the so-called Megabus. 147 Republicans and 149 Democrats joined forces to vote in favor of the package. Eighty-six Republicans and 35 Democrats voted against the bill.
“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement reflects our year-long focus on the American people’s top priority: jobs,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said following the bill’s passage. “Now it’s time for Senate Democrats to support both this and our bipartisan measure extending payroll tax relief, extending and reforming unemployment insurance, and speeding up a decision on the bipartisan Keystone XL energy project.”
House Minority Leader Nancy urged the GOP to transcend that sense of bipartisanship into the year-end jobs bill pending before Congress.
“Today, the House came together in a spirit of compromise to keep the doors of the federal government open,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement after the vote. “Now, it is time for Republicans to remain at the negotiating table to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans and unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. We must not recess for the holidays until we get the job done. We must act to strengthen our economy, our middle class, and our future.”
The Senate is not scheduled to vote until tomorrow on the omnibus, technically after the deadline for final passage. The Majority Leader said final passage from the Senate is not necessary today in order to avoid a shutdown at midnight tonight, that it will be just fine to hold the vote tomorrow with no ramifications.
“There’s a ruling from this White House, its predecessors that if one House passes a spending bill as we are doing here, and there’s a presumption it will pass in the other body, the time is extended for 24 hours,” Reid said.
After the Senate votes Saturday, the omnibus will be sent to the White House.
Both sides in the Senate will continue to work through the weekend on the payroll tax proposal, with both parties stressing that issues still remain that need to be worked out. But today, both sides again spoke confidently that a deal is on the horizon.
There is a proposal in the work for a Continuing Resolution (CR) for the payroll plan – likely a short, two-month, $40 billion extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the current Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re very, very close,” Reid said today on the Senate floor.
“We are making significant progress and reaching an agreement on a package that will have bipartisan support,” McConnell echoed today. “I think we’re going to get to that place. And I share his view that good progress is being made.”