The Capitol Christmas tree is shown lighted during a ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol December 2, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The Capitol Christmas tree is shown lighted during a ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol December 2, 2015 in Washington, DC.

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Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating a spending bill but will not have it finished by the Friday deadline

A short-term measure would give Congress until Wednesday, December 16 at midnight to reach a deal and avoid a federal government shutdown

Washington CNN —  

Congress is buying itself more time to hammer out a spending deal.

Just two days before the federal government is set to run out of money, House lawmakers introduced a stopgap measure to keep it open through Wednesday, December 16 while Republicans and Democrats negotiate.

The sticking points are the “dozens” of policy riders being discussed by top leaders, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said Wednesday.

These include a wide range of issues that members on both sides are still insisting be in the deal, including stepped-up vetting of Syrian refugees, abortion funding, environmental issues, financial regulations and a provision to lift the ban on oil exports.

“There’s a lot of unresolved issues – some are being handled by leaders and a whole host of others will be considered at the committee level. We’ve got a whole lot of work ahead of us,” Rogers said, but added, “we are making progress.”

Multiple congressional staffers tell CNN they hope to resolve remaining differences soon and introduce the legislative text of the massive bill as soon as Sunday night or early next week.

“My sense is this is going the way these deals typically go. There’s a lot of drama and eventually the Phoenix rises and we figure it out,” GOP Rep. Luke Messer told CNN.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough visited the Capitol on Wednesday to strategize on Democratic priorities with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the two top Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations panels, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York and Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican who is part of the talks on the spending bill, said about the back and forth with Democrats over policy riders, “they start with a position they don’t want any. We start with a position we want them all, and someplace in the middle we’ll meet.”

Tax talks

Along with the spending bill negotiators are also trading offers and counter offers on a massive bill extending a wide range of tax cuts. As some items gets added or removed from the spending bill they are impacting the shape of the tax package. Combined, the two measures amount to a potentially $2 trillion package for Congress to vote on next week.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who chairs the Finance Committee and who is intimately involved in the discussions about the tax bill, spoke for several minutes with Pelosi in a room in the Capitol just after a bipartisan ceremony marking the passage earlier Wednesday of a big education bill. Their discussion appeared focused and intent but also amenable.

“It’s up in the air. We’re in negotiation so I have a great natural hesitancy to talk about it,” Hatch told reporters afterwards. “It doesn’t have to gel today but I’d like it to but I don’t know if it will.”

Hatch said he is pressing hard to make permanent a number of the temporary tax breaks that are under discussion. Pelosi and other Democrats are pushing to index a child tax credit to inflation, which could put more money in the hands of working families.

In a sign of how critical some of the issues are that negotiators are trying to resolve, Hatch said he thought that Pelosi’s child tax credit demand could kill a deal on permanent changes to the tax code.

“I hope she backs off on that because it’s the one thing that would stop it,” Hatch said.

But Pelosi has leverage – and she is using it. Ryan faces significant defections from conservatives who are critical of giving in at all on policy riders, so the GOP members admit that again they will need Democrats to pass the bill to avoid another shutdown.