The Senate will also need time to consider and pass any final deal. With the unanimous consent of all members, an omnibus could be passed Wednesday, but absent an agreement the upper chamber could require nearly a week for full passage, potentially necessitating another short-term CR. With the holidays and the start of an election year fast approaching, however, many members are eager to return to their states and districts for a few-week recess.
Several issues remain unsettled. For one, Republicans are still pushing to include the House-passed Syrian-refugee legislation in an omnibus package. That comes even though the House easily passed a bill to tighten the visa-waiver system.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Wednesday that he met with House leaders and they told him the refugee bill, which he sponsored, was still in the bill. He said the visa language would likely be added as well, but he is not sure his refugee legislation will ultimately make the cut.
“That’s definitely going to be on it. The question is about the Syrian-refugee bill,” he said. “As of now it’s on the omnibus. Whether it survives the negotiations, I don’t know.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Tuesday that the Syrian-refugee issue would be handled in the omnibus in one way or another.
The fate of a massive package of tax breaks remained uncertain, as well. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said he and party leaders are still deciding whether to file a smaller scale two-year bill, and whether to include delays to two soon-to-be-enacted Obamacare taxes on the smaller bill.
“Discussions are ongoing. I’m very hopeful we’re able to move the permanent package,” Brady said. “We just haven’t made a decision yet about going to rules and having the two-year package, or having the pause on [medical-]device tax and Cadillac [tax].
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been insistent that negotiators index the child tax credit to inflation, but Republicans believe that is a nonstarter. Meanwhile, negotiators are discussing whether to lift the de facto ban on U.S. crude oil exports through the year-end spending and tax package.
Democrats are demanding a suite of concessions in return for handing the oil industry a win on one of its biggest lobbying priorities, including long-term extension of renewable electricity project tax credits that have lapsed or will expire in a year.
North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven, who along with North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is an outspoken supporter of exports, said Wednesday that he sees a “good chance” of reaching a deal.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who has been involved in the talks, told reporters in the Capitol that “there is a deal to be had here,” but noted that Democrats want “long-term certainty” on green-power tax policy. They’re also seeking revival of a lapsed conservation program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund.