- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2015

The White House practically dared congressional Republicans Thursday to shut down the government over “ideologically motivated” proposals they want to attach to a must-pass government spending bill, even as President Obama’s Democratic allies roiled the delicate talks by demanding an end to a ban on federal research into the causes of gun violence.

Negotiators are struggling to complete a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and also hope to strike a long-term deal to renew a package of expiring tax breaks at a cost of up to $700 billion over the next decade.

Current funding expires Friday, so Congress is racing to pass a five-day extension, giving lawmakers until the middle of next week to finish negotiations on the omnibus bill.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said that “deadlines come and go” and missing Friday’s target is acceptable if it means getting the best deal possible.

“We’re negotiating,” he said. “Not everybody gets what they want when you negotiate in divided government, but I think we will complete this.”

Yet the talks have been complicated by policy riders that wouldn’t pass as standalone legislation but could sneak through as part of the must-pass spending bill.

SEE ALSO: Talk of gun control spurs increase in firearms, Smith and Wesson maker says

Dialing up the pressure on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Mr. Ryan, the administration said GOP-authored riders were the only thing standing in the way of a deal.

“Ultimately, Republicans will have to decide if they’re prepared to shut down the government over these ideological issues,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Mr. Earnest said the administration takes “solace in knowing that the newly elected speaker of the House doesn’t want to be in a position of presiding over a government shutdown six weeks into his tenure.”

Conservatives feel the GOP-controlled Congress should be able to extract policy wins before they agree to new spending in the bill.

To that end, members are trying to roll back Mr. Obama’s emissions standards on power plants and water rules, ease Wall Street regulations put in place on banks after the 2008 financial crisis and freeze the administration’s plans to accept 10,000 more Syrian refugees. Republicans are also pushing to end the ban on U.S. oil exports.

For their part, Democrats pushed Thursday to erase a provision that since the late 1990s has effectively thwarted the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health from spending money to research the causes of gun violence, a provision strongly backed by gun control groups.

SEE ALSO: White House: No idea why Americans are buying so many guns

Democrats say it is outrageous to retain the ban in the wake a string of shootings, including last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people.

“We must insist that we cannot have a bill leave the station that still has that ban on research in it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said.

The effort is part of a broad Democratic push to put gun control back in the spotlight amid new fears of radical Islamic terrorism, though Republicans are unlikely to accept provisions that could anger gun rights supporters.

Mr. Ryan wouldn’t comment on Mrs. Pelosi’s request Thursday, saying he wouldn’t “negotiate through the media.”

Democrats believe they have the upper hand, figuring Mr. Ryan cannot cobble together a majority from among his own divided GOP caucus and he will eventually have to ask for Democrats’ help.

Mr. Ryan wouldn’t comment on his strategy Thursday, but said his members “understand the situation quite well.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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