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Republicans ponder how to fill rest of year

Issued: 2018-03-28

Republican leaders are mulling what to do for the rest of the year after passing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package.

Legislative activity will slow down dramatically after the Easter recess as vulnerable incumbents seek to spend more time campaigning ahead of the fall midterm elections.

GOP leaders haven’t said much about what’s next.

Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPreservation of Tongass National Forest is crucial to our national climate change policy Michael Steele: Congress must lead on cannabis reform and stand with the American public Proposed budget for Indian Health Services won't treat Native American patients equally MORE (R-Alaska) wants it to include energy infrastructure development.

Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP chairman calls on Zuckerberg to testify GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump With shutdown nearing, focus turns to Rand Paul MORE (R-S.D.) wants it to include broadband development in rural areas.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDems blast new citizenship question on census Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears Top GOP senators push Trump to sell F-35s to Taiwan to deter China MORE (R-Okla.) wants the package to focus on traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.

And while Republicans agree that the package should be paid for with a mix of public and private financing, there’s no agreement on how much taxpayers should kick in.

Conservatives led by Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump signs massive spending bill, backing away from veto threat Deficit hawks encourage Trump veto of spending bill House Judiciary chair subpoenas DOJ for FBI documents MORE (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said at the joint Senate–House GOP retreat in West Virginia that the federal government should contribute no more than $200 million.

Other GOP lawmakers argue that Congress needs to spend more money to achieve something close to the $1 trillion package that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCigna says it has reduced customers use of opioids by 25 percent Greens launch campaign to get Pruitt fired White House: 'Maximum pressure' campaign on North Korea is working MORE promised during the 2016 campaign.

If the infrastructure package stalls, GOP leaders are looking at smaller, less-controversial bills.

Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and another bill responding to the opioid epidemic, called CARA 2.0 — sponsored by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to speed up infrastructure permitting Overnight Tech: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica controversy | Senate passes sex trafficking bill | EU pushes new tax on tech | YouTube toughens rules on gun videos Senate passes controversial online sex trafficking bill MORE (R-Ohio) — are options. Congress passed the first version of the opioids measure, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, in 2016.

Portman also has a bill sponsored with Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate Dems request health panel hearing on school shootings Kaine questions whether Bolton can obtain full security clearance Kaine: Parkland students 'changing the equation' on gun control MORE (D-Va.) to expand Pell Grant eligibility to help workers enter short-term training programs for technically demanding jobs.

It has White House support, according to GOP aides.

Senate committees are due to report legislation addressing water and broadband infrastructure that could become the building blocks for a bigger package later this year.

“There’s going to be a WRDA bill out of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Commerce, I’m sure, will be doing something on broadband,” Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynNo. 2 GOP senator defends filibuster amid Trump attack Top GOP senators push Trump to sell F-35s to Taiwan to deter China GOP senators fuel Justice Kennedy retirement talk MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill, referring to the Water Resources Development Act.

He noted that the omnibus package included hundreds of millions of dollars for unspecified infrastructure projects.

“You can begin to see how that might come together as a package,” he added.

Two issues that sparked intense debate in Congress in February and March, immigration and gun violence, are not expected to come to the floor anytime soon.

The omnibus included a measure known as the Fix NICS Act designed to improve reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, dimming the chances of a vote on universal background checks, which Democrats are demanding.

“Republicans lobbied hard to get Fix NICS in the budget so that they didn’t have to have an open debate on the Senate floor,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Dems request health panel hearing on school shootings Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support MORE (D-Conn.), an outspoken voice on gun violence.

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