House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday defended the $1 trillion spending bill as a bipartisan bill that's needed to keep the government open after Thursday, even as it came under attack from both Republicans and Democrats.
The huge spending bill wraps up what should normally be a whole year's worth of work by Congress, and shoves that work into a 1,600-page bill that few if any members will read. Some Republicans were criticizing the process even before it was published late Tuesday night.
The bill includes some victories for Republicans, such as a $300 million cut to the IRS enforcement budget, no new funding for Obamacare, and a continuation of the ban on abortions with public money. But Boehner himself has said legislation should be read and fully understood before it's passed into law, and was forced to defend the hastily written bill to reporters on Wednesday.
"Listen, when we get to the end of a two-year session of Congress, a lot of work gets built up that never gets across one floor or the other floor," he said. "And as a realist, when we get to the end of a session, members are trying to find a way to get their legislation across the finish line."
Boehner also added that all the measures in the bill "have been worked out in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion."
For Republicans, one of the big sticking points is the absence of language to defund President Barack Obama's immigration move. Some will try to include that language later today but are expected to fail, which will likely lead dozens of Republicans to oppose the bill on Thursday.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) had said it's not possible to defund Obama's move, but Republicans noted that the spending bill includes other defunding measures. Boehner ignored those details today, and said the bill helps the GOP avoid a government shutdown, and will let them revisit immigration early next year, as it only funds the Department of Homeland Security through February 27.
"This sets up a direct challenge to the president's unilateral actions on immigration, when we have new majorities in both chambers of Congress," he said.
While a few dozen Democrats will be needed to pass the bill in the House, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated that she would oppose the bill because of two provisions. Her warning on Wednesday afternoon could make it a little harder for the GOP to find the few dozen Democratic votes.
First, Pelosi said she objected to language that rolls back language in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that currently prevents banks from trading derivatives that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission. The ban was put in place to limit the need for taxpayer bailouts of banks.
"This provision, allowing big banks to gamble with money insured by the FDIC, opens the door to another taxpayer-funded bailout of big banks — forcing middle class families to bear the burden of Wall Street's mistakes," Pelosi said.
She was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who went to the Senate floor to argue against passage of the spending bill because of the banking language.
Pelosi also said she objects to language allowing political parties to raise more money for political parties' presidential conventions. Boehner said that language is meant to ensure taxpayer money is not used to fund these conventions, but Pelosi called it an attempt to "massively expand the role of big money in our elections."
"These provisions are destructive to middle class families and to the practice of our democracy," Pelosi said. While she did not say explicitly she would vote against the bill, she added, "We must get them out of the omnibus package."