UPDATE 3-Prospects dim for comprehensive U.S. spending bill

Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:15pm EST

Related Topics

* McConnell says won't support all-inclusive bill

* Senate Democrats see little Republican support

* Could put the government on auto-pilot (Adds quotes, details)

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Prospects for a comprehensive bill to fund the U.S. government appeared to dim on Thursday after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he would not support the measure.

McConnell's statement could indicate waning Republican support for a bill that would fund everything from national parks to the military through September 2011.

That could force Democrats to put the government essentially on automatic pilot by funding operations on a temporary basis, an approach that makes it difficult for government agencies to launch new programs or close out old ones.

The fiscal year began on Oct. 1 but government agencies have been operating on an extension of last year's budget because Congress has not passed any of the 12 spending bills that fund government operations.

Democrats hope to roll all 12 of those bills into a massive "omnibus" bill and attract some Republican votes by capping the total at about $1.108 trillion, $27 billion less than President Barack Obama has requested.

"Americans don't want Congress passing massive, trillion-dollar bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "So I won't be supporting an omnibus bill."

PUSHING FOR SHARPER CUTS

Senate Republicans have also lined up behind a proposal to cut spending by $100 billion, far more than the current proposal, and ban the pet spending projects known as "earmarks" that are likely tucked into the massive package.

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, which handles spending, are waiting to see what the bill looks like before making a decision, a spokesman said.

But many have already made up their minds to oppose it, said Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat on the committee.

"If you don't have the votes for anything but a (temporary bill), that's probably what's going to end up happening," Dorgan told reporters. "It puts a lot of these agencies on auto-pilot in terms of what's working and what's not."

Senator Daniel Inouye, the Democrat who chairs the committee, told Reuters he believed the Senate could pass an omnibus bill but was unsure of its prospects in the House.

If they fail to pass an omnibus bill, Democrats would be left with two options: pass a temporary spending bill that would last through the rest of the fiscal year, or a short-term extension that would expire early next year, when Republicans will control the House of Representatives and wield greater clout in the Senate after their gains in the Nov. 2 elections.

House Republican leader and incoming Speaker John Boehner said he was more focused on enacting steep spending cuts than the specific vehicle in which they are packaged.

"I think it's a shame that the Democrat majority here in Congress didn't pass a budget, didn't pass any appropriations bills, and now we are left with nothing but bad choices about how we fund the government," he told a news conference.

Congress rarely passes its funding bills on time. On some occasions, such as the 1995 showdown between Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, the government had to shut down due to partisan bickering. (Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and John Whitesides; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (1)
Cru wrote:
Oh yeah, that’s not contrived at all…

Nov 18, 2010 11:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
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