Potential Remains for Political Bickering to Upset Plans for a 12-Bill Omnibus

Potential Remains for Political Bickering to Upset Plans for a 12-Bill Omnibus

With topline spending levels established in the two-year budget deal cleared last week, appropriators believe they can craft 12 individual spending bills into a year-end omnibus in time for both chambers to pass the package by the time the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out on Dec. 11.

Senior appropriators already are figuring out how to allocate the $1.067 trillion in discretionary dollars the budget deal provides for fiscal 2016 among the 12 appropriations subcommittees, reports CQ. The committees plan to provide the subcommittees their allocations by the end of the week, with a goal of hashing out the details of their spending bills between both parties and chambers by Thanksgiving.

That timeline would leave two weeks for committee leaders to work through high-profile issues — likely, contentious policy riders — and bring the measure to the floor in both chambers.

“It’s still going to be a hard number, a hard time to comply with. But it’ll give us about five weeks, and that’s about what it took last time to do a bill. We’ll work hard, but it’ll still be a tight race,” Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said after the budget deal was passed last week.

Despite the Appropriations committees’ strong motivation to complete a 12-bill omnibus, there is no guarantee Congress will pass such a measure. Lawmakers could end up passing full-year spending bills for some agencies and CRs for others, or — if bipartisan talks break down — resort to a full-year CR for the entire federal government. A partial government shutdown is not even out of the question, according to the story.

One hint of trouble already has emerged, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a vote today to advance the fiscal 2016 defense spending bill to the floor. If McConnell secures 60 votes to limit debate on the legislation, he would amend it to reflect the new defense spending limits included in the bipartisan budget agreement.

But Senate Democrats likely won’t supply the votes to cut off debate over fears that only the Pentagon would get a full-year spending bill and all other agencies would be forced to operate for the remainder of the year under a CR.

“Right now, we do not trust this process,” said Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the ranking member on Senate Appropriations. Mikulski said she plans to vote against the procedural motion barring an assurance from the GOP that that all 12 titles will receive full-year spending measures for the remaining 10 months of the fiscal year, reported CQ.

“Right now we are very concerned that this would be a repeat of 2010 where they passed defense appropriations and put everything else in a CR. We can’t have everything else in a CR,” she told reporters.

Dan Cohen
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