House to Vote on Omnibus

March 21, 2018

House leaders are pushing to schedule a vote later this week on a $1.3 trillion budget agreement that would give the Senate enough time to pass it before a Friday deadline when government funding expires. However, with more than two dozen issues still outstanding, the House vote likely will not occur until Thursday.

Without action this week by Congress, the government would shut down for the third time this fiscal year. A series of unresolved policy disagreements –over whether to include provisions on President Donald Trump’s border wall, a massive New York infrastructure project and the special counsel‘s Russia investigation – has prevented lawmakers from reaching an agreement to fund the government through fiscal 2018, which ends Sept. 30.

Over the weekend, leaders were still haggling over thorny policy disputes, including authorizing billions of dollars to fund the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing payments to lower individuals’ insurance premiums. But a flash point remains concerning whether the underlying bill also would prohibit taxpayer-subsidized plans from covering abortions. Further unresolved issues include President’s Trump’s to close a narrow deal that would protect immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years, in exchange for $25 billion in border wall funding.

House leaders hope to wrap up discussions and release legislative text of the budget agreement by Tuesday night, setting up a House vote for Thursday. If the House does act on Thursday, the Senate would have to gain the unanimous consent of its members to accelerate consideration of the bill, meaning that any one senator could delay proceedings and force a shutdown. That is what happened in early February, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up consideration of a budget bill as he railed about the deficit, forcing a funding lapse of several hours on a Friday morning.

With conservatives expected to oppose the massive spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2018, through Sept. 30, Democratic votes will be needed in both chambers to pass the legislation. This has empowered Democrats to make requests on a variety of issues while resisting Republican priorities.

And because the omnibus will be among the last major must-pass bills to move through Congress this year, it has become the vehicle for a number of unrelated priorities sought by the White House and lawmakers of both parties.