Omnibus bill ‘hanging by a thread’ as it faces five major hurdles

The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government is “hanging by a thread,” according to Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, as the funding program hits significant hurdles.

A deadline looms on Friday and if the spending bill is not passed by then, there will be a partial government shutdown. Factors such as the upcoming inclement weather in Washington, DC and an immigration amendment further complicate the issue.

On Wednesday, NBC News reporter Sahil Kapur described five obstacles to the bill’s passage in a tweet. He listed a “dispute over an immigration amendment threatening to disrupt the coalition to pass it”, a “dreadful DC storm could complicate the voting schedule”, lawmakers wanting to go home for the holidays, the threat of a government shutdown and the fact that “Republicans control the House in 13 days”.

“I think this bill is hanging by a thread,” Coons said as he left the Senate floor on Wednesday, according to NBC News’ Frank Thorp V, who added that Republican Senator Ben Sasse said: “The Omnis are always s*** shows.”

The Ukrainian flag flies in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech to Congress on December 21, 2022. A partial government shutdown looms if Congress fails to pass a bill funding this week.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Here’s a look at the top five hurdles facing the omnibus spending bill.

1. The Immigration Amendment

Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced an amendment aimed at forcing the Biden administration to reinstate Title 42 – a policy adopted by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic that allows for the rapid deportation of undocumented migrants.

The policy was set to expire on Wednesday, but a group of Republican-led states appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay on that expiration pending further legal action on the matter. Roberts granted the stay, and the Biden administration asked the court to rule against the GOP’s effort to expand Title 42.

Lee’s amendment would cut funding for the office of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas unless the policy is reinstated. As Kapur pointed out on Twitter, if the amendment is inserted into the package, Democrats in the House would likely defeat the bill.

Additionally, Senate Democrats want a 60-vote threshold before Lee’s amendment can be approved, while Republicans want a simple majority. It is not yet known how the case will be resolved.

No vote on the package took place on Wednesday despite some expectations and a delay in the Senate could lead to delays in the House days before the shutdown.

2. The threat of shutdown

If a funding bill is not passed by Friday, the federal government will experience a partial holiday shutdown. This has made the need to agree on a set of expenditures even more urgent.

Although there was no full shutdown, a partial shutdown in 2018 and 2019 saw around 380,000 federal employees laid off, while around 420,000 went to work but were not paid during the shutdown. according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.

Congress previously avoided a government shutdown by voting to temporarily fund the government for another week on Dec. 15.

3. The new Republican majority

If the Senate passes the omnibus spending bill, it will then move on to the House, where members are expected to hold a late-night session to push the bill through.

Democrats currently control the majority in the House, but that will change on Jan. 3 thanks to November’s midterm elections. Some Republicans expressed anger at the prospect of passing a major spending measure during a lame session.

A group of 13 House Republicans this week sent a letter to their Senate colleagues warning them that they would not cooperate with any GOP senator who helped pass the spending package.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become the next Speaker of the House in January, has spoken out against the spending bill.

Those divisions could potentially deter Republican senators from voting for it, but only 10 Republican votes will be needed in the Senate, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports the bill.

4. House for the holidays

With Christmas just days away, lawmakers are likely eager to leave DC and return home for the holidays to be with their families for the holiday season.

That could deter some lawmakers from engaging in potentially protracted negotiations and debates over a 4,100-plus-page funding bill.

The late-night House session scheduled for Thursday would be designed so members could get home quickly afterwards, but that could also be complicated by something beyond Congress’s control.

5. Winter Weather

Lawmakers’ plans to return home for the holidays could hit a significant hurdle in the form of harsh winter conditions. There will be heavy rain in DC on Thursday and temperatures could drop to 40 degrees Friday with wind chills of around 0 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday morning.

These conditions are expected to disrupt travel, with DC-area airports preparing for the impact the weather could have on holiday travel.

Bad weather could complicate the ability to meet and hold votes, while potential travel disruptions could deter lawmakers from staying in DC longer than they absolutely have to, especially if no agreement on the spending package is n is in sight.

Despite significant hurdles, the threat of a shutdown could push lawmakers to pass the spending package before heading home.


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