WASHINGTON -- The top Republican in the Senate Thursday came out against Democratic-led efforts to pass a $1 trillion-plus spending bill to mop up Washington's unfinished budget work before the current session of Congress ends.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said voters have sent a message that they don't want lawmakers to put together giant bills in secret and force them through.
"If this election showed us anything, it's that Americans don't want Congress passing massive trillion dollar bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors," McConnell said. "They want us to do business differently."
McConnell's opposition would appear to doom the idea, since Democrats don't have the votes to advance it in the lame-duck session without Republican help.
House Democrats and a bipartisan group of Senate staff aides have been working to assemble a $1.1 trillion "omnibus" measure to fund the government's day-to-day operations, at least in part because they were given tacit approval by McConnell to do so. But the results of the Nov.2 election and opposition to an omnibus by House GOP leaders made the idea unpalatable.
The Senate hasn't passed a single spending bill for the budget year that began almost two months ago and ends in September. Ten of 12 House bills haven't even been made public.
Congress needs to pass a stopgap spending bill by Dec. 3 to avoid a shutdown of most of the government. A leading idea is to fund the government at current budget levels through February and let the next Congress to sort it out.
Starting from scratch next year would set the stage for a pitched battle in the new Congress between the GOP-dominated House and a Senate and White House still under Democratic control.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday endorsed a resolution rolling spending back to pre-Obama levels that duplicates the position of Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Another option, backed by the White House, is to simply pass a catchall bill funding most programs at current levels through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. House Republicans could then try to pass legislation cutting spending below those levels, though they would run into roadblocks with Democrats.
In a brief interview Wednesday, Boehner declined to say whether he wants Republicans to inherit a full plate of appropriations bills that the GOP-led House would have to work out in concert with the Senate and President Obama. He said it wasn't clear what the Democrat-led lame duck session will hand over to the next Congress.
"I don't know what they're going to. They don't know what they're going to do," Boehner said after leaving a meeting with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.