Thursday, December 11, 2014
WASHINGTON - A day before funding for the government runs out, opposition on both left and right emerged Wednesday to a bipartisan spending bill to keep the lights on, leaving the legislation’s fate uncertain and raising the specter of a government shutdown.
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed the last-minute insertion of policy riders that loosen bank regulations on derivatives and increase maximum campaign donations to party committees by tenfold. “These provisions are destructive to middle class families and to the practice of our democracy. We must get them out of the omnibus package,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Other leading Democrats are lining up to make the same case: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee has come out to oppose the bill for including “big money giveaways that hurt working families.” Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, also opposes the bill. “The #CROmnibus is a bad deal for working families, allows bad Wall Street deals, empowers wealthy donors, puts DHS in crisis,” Ellison wrote on Twitter.
Liberals in the Senate are lashing out as well. “This is a democracy, and the American people didn’t elect us to stand up for Citigroup,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on the Senate floor. She urged House Democrats to stand against the bill “until this risky giveaway is removed from the legislation.”
The $1.1 trillion spending agreement was reached Tuesday night by the two appropriations chairs, Rep. Hal Rogers and Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski. But it also included a raft of policy riders, many favored by industry lobbyists. The greatest Democratic opposition has risen to a rider that would gut a provision requiring Citigroup and other major Wall Street banks to segregate trading of certain risky derivatives known as swaps from government-insured banking.
“The provision inserted into the Appropriations bill is a substantive mistake, a terrible violation of the procedure that should be followed on this complex and important subject, and a frightening precedent that provides a road map for further attacks on our protection against financial instability,” said former Rep. Barney Frank, who co-authored the original Wall Street reform legislation.
It’s unclear, however, whether the liberal revolt will be enough to derail the bill. Some conservative Republicans remain opposed to the legislation for not doing enough to push back against President Obama’s executive action on immigration, despite the concession that House Speaker John Boehner won to authorize only short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security. On Wednesday, outside conservative groups urged members to vote against the bill, which Heritage Action described as a “blank check for amnesty.”
That means Boehner may still need a good number of House Democrats to pass the legislation, giving them some leverage in the negotiations. Aides expect about 150 House Republicans to vote in favor, meaning that around 70 Democrats need to be on board to pass the bill, according to NBC News’s Luke Russert. The threat of a shutdown could be enough to bring them over, despite the backlash over the Dodd-Frank legislation. And the new riders could help Boehner attract more conservative votes, too—as well as a handful of Democrats who have broken with their party to support the change to Dodd-Frank in the past.
Some House Democrats openly acknowledged that their own party helped some of the policy riders make it into the bill.
“Although Democrats enacted comprehensive oversight and changes for our derivatives markets as part of Dodd-Frank, some are using critical legislation that is necessary to keep our government open as an opportunity to ram through harmful deregulation,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, who described herself as “disgusted” with the deal.