By Alexander Bolton – 11/25/15 06:01 AM EST
Congressional leaders face several hurdles to getting a budget deal done by the Dec. 11 deadline, including a fight over health funding that is holding up the omnibus spending package.
There’s also a battle brewing over dozens of policy riders aimed at Wall Street and environmental regulations that Republicans insist should be included in the legislation but Democrats warn could lead to a government shutdown.
Some Republicans also want to add language blocking President Obama’s refugee resettlement program, which would be a non-starter with Democrats, but GOP leaders are reluctant at this point to pursue that path.
Democratic leaders have highlighted the riders as the biggest threat to a year-end spending deal, though discussion of them was postponed until the Thanksgiving recess because of a dispute over funding.
“All riders will be dealt with when we complete a good part of the money bills. We aren’t quite settled on a lot of things yet,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said before the break. “There are still issues related to money.”
The biggest funding holdup relates to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Both sides agree the research institute should get a funding boost, but they are at odds over how to pay for it.
Republicans want to take the money out of other programs, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which face funding cuts of 20 percent or more. Republicans also want to cut the National Labor Relations Board and preschool development programs.
Mikulski and Democrats argue the boost for NIH should come from the additional budget cap space created by a bipartisan deal struck between President Obama and GOP leaders last month.
“We all would like to raise money for NIH, but the question is do we add more money from what we got out of the budget agreement or do we continue to take money from other programs,” Mikulski said. “We believe you shouldn’t shortchange other programs.”
Negotiators also must hash out how much of the extra money provided by the budget deal should go to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
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