Hopes for an omnibus dim after elections

Wednesday - 11/10/2010, 10:31am EST

Molly Hooper, congressional reporter, The Hill

Click below to hear the interview

Download mp3

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee says he'll oppose any omnibus spending package Democrats try to pass during the lame duck session, which begins Monday. California Congressman Jerry Lewis says he'll urge other members of his party to oppose it as well.

Molly Hooper, congressional reporter for The Hill, told Federal News Radio it all depends now on what happens in the Senate. As of yesterday, "our latest reporting at The Hill, is that the Senate Democrats have been able to compromise" and whittle it down to $1.106 trillion. If that passes the Senate, said Hooper, and the measure makes it over to the House, "I'm pretty sure that Nancy Pelosi would have the votes to pass that."

But don't start cashing checks based on that number just yet, said Hooper.

The more likely scenario, I think, is that the House and the Senate will pass a continuing resolution until the next year, until early in January when Republicans, House Republicans, can set the levels. John Boehner (R-Oh) has said, and this is also in their Pledge to America, that they wanted to take spending levels back to 2008 levels. That's discretionary spending that's non-security related. So that could be drastic cuts of maybe 20 percent across the board to many of the agencies out there.

Freeze? Furlough? Shutdown?

Also part of the Pledge to America was a commitment to a federal hiring freeze. Talk of furloughs and a possible shutdown are also being heard.

"That's one of the battles we could see in the beginning of next year," said Hooper. Democrats, current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca), and President Obama "don't want to see that. They would much rather pass something even if it is a compromise measure because the Obama administration asked for, initially, and omnibus bill that would cost approximately $1.124 trillion."

The Lame Duck Agenda

It all comes down to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Hooper, and what he's able to do during the lame duck session starting Monday.

"The House and the Senate will be in session for a week, then they break for Thanksgiving and come back the week after. And then they have until Christmas to get this all sorted out. So we could be here for a while," said Hooper.

Besides funding the government, there's much the outgoing Congress, especially Democrats, wanted to do said Hooper. "But one thing that both sides agree needs to happen is to do something about the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year."

The result of that issue, said Hooper, depends on how much Republicans will be willing to negotiate with the White House.