The surprise inside the House CR

Wednesday - 12/8/2010, 10:31am EST

Ian Swanson, news editor, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal News Radio has been telling you about some movement on getting your agency funded for this fiscal year. House Democratic leaders have proposed a budget freeze for most cabinet departments.

One of the elements of the plan surprising to many is the inclusion of a two year pay freeze as proposed by President Obama. Even veteran Congress watcher Ian Swanson, news editor for The Hill, told Federal News Radio he was surprised.

It's unusual in a CR to include a two year freeze on worker pay because...the CR only goes through the end of September, but you're putting in language there that would go for the next year as well and that's something that (Majority Leader Steny) Hoyer (D-MD) and other Democrats had questioned. The other argument is that, from the Democrats' perspective, it could have gotten worse if they hadn't put it in there and they'd sort of left it up to Republicans to decide what to do in the next year.

Swanson said that doesn't mean there won't be any more surprises.

"One other thing to watch for is that there's still a plan in the Senate to take this CR that we expect to pass through the House today and sort of attach an omnibus spending bill that would have some different funding levels. So there's still a couple of twists and turns in the story of these spending bills for 2011."

With the completion of funding the federal government, Swanson said that only leaves a few items left on the lame duck agenda. But, he said that, doesn't necessarily mean all the work will get done.

The House should pass the CR today, and then I think the big unknown is what happens with this tax compromise that President Obama announced. It's, of course, very unpopular right now with Democrats. They want to see some changes to it and you could see a big fight over that stalling everything. The other things they want to get done are the spending measures and then Obama would still like to get this START arms treaty with Russia through. If they can get something worked out on taxes quickly, I think they're likely to meet their goal of getting out of town next week, but if you keep seeing hiccoughs on that tax measure and that gets stalled, that could affect a lot of these other things as well.