Down the Back Stretch - Appropriations Bills Continue to Work Their Way Through the House by George C. Crawford


House appropriators continue to process the FY 2013 appropriations bills with several of the more controversial bills remaining.

The House will try to use the power of the purse to stymie the implementation of the health care overhaul by limiting spending on it, as they did last year. The House Financial Services appropriations bill (H.R. 6020) would prohibit transfers of funds between the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS to implement the health care overhaul. Senate Democrats will continue to oppose any efforts to include this provision in the final budget bill, mirroring action in the Senate Appropriations Committee when an attempt by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would prohibit the IRS from using funds to implement the individual mandate of the health care law was defeated. Similarly, Senate Republican appropriators also failed in their attempt to limit funding for much of the $4 billion that the fiscal 2013 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill (S. 3295) includes for the overhaul. The House version of Labor/HHS has not been considered, but Republican appropriators are expected to use it as a vehicle for efforts to defund the overhaul.

On deck for when the House returns after the 4th of July recess are completion of the Transportation/Housing Urban Development bill and two additional appropriations bills, Department of Defense (H.R. 5856) and Financial Services (H.R. 6020). Both bills are subject to veto threats over funding levels and various policy riders.

Interior and Labor/HHS remain the two bills not considered by the full House Appropriations Committee. Last year, the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill contained several controversial provisions that did not survive House/Senate negotiations. In a similar fashion this year, the House Appropriations Committee approved nearly a dozen amendments containing funding limitations and riders and also imposed a 17% cut to funding levels at the EPA. However, there is some uncertainty whether the bill will be considered by the full House given the limitations of time and number of amendments that may be offered. Expect to see further amendments on Labor/HHS designed to slow down the implementation of the health care law, family planning fights as well as debate over the overall funding levels contained in the legislation.

In the Senate, Defense, Interior and Legislative Branch are the three remaining bills not yet considered by the full Appropriations Committee. The Senate has still not considered any appropriations bills on the Floor while the House has passed five with two others to be considered next week.

On another front, in the wake of various provisions being jettisoned from the recently passed Highway bill, efforts will begin to attach those provisions, most notably EPA's proposed regulation of coal ash, to the remaining appropriations bills being considered by the House. Like coal ash, the Keystone pipeline is a prime candidate for efforts to attach it to legislation moving through the House and Senate.

Another item looking for a legislative "engine" is an effort by both the House and Senate that would require the Administration to lay out a public plan on how sequestration will be implemented. While both sides seem to be close to agreement on the desirability of having a plan put on the table, the Administration has provided few details on its plans for the sequester, saying Congress should come up with a budget agreement to avert it

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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