* 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 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
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)