Despite the high hopes earlier this year of passing individual or several mini-bus appropriation bills, a twelve-bill omnibus approach to appropriations is now all but guaranteed. While the Senate Appropriations Committee has reported seven of the twelve annual bills, none have been considered by the full Senate. Progress has slowed in the Senate and attention is now being diverted to the President's supplemental appropriations request to deal with the worsening crisis at the border. The slow-down in the Senate was further confirmed when the Majority Leader announced a schedule for July devoid of floor time set aside for the consideration of appropriation bills. In the House, the Appropriations Committee has reported ten of the twelve bills with Labor/HHS and Interior/Environment being the last two bills not reported from Committee. The Interior/Environment bill has been considered by the subcommittee. There is currently no schedule for full committee consideration of Labor/HHS. Seven of the bills have passed the House and several more are expected to be considered in the upcoming weeks.
Since consideration of the annual appropriation bills has ground to a halt in the Senate, Appropriators will continue to work behind the scenes to lay out the parameters of an omnibus deal that will be struck after the November elections. That is one of the reasons that the Committees continue to report, and the House continues to pass individual bills. Neither the House nor the Senate want to engage in omnibus negotiations without having first established a position.
Absent from this year's debate is any contention over the top line number. Both the House and the Senate adhere to the overall discretionary spending cap of $1.014 trillion established under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Individual allocations at the subcommittee level (known as 302(b) allocations) are relatively close between the two Committees with no individual allocation differing by more than $3 billion between the House and the Senate. As expected the Senate allocations are slightly higher for Labor/HHS, Transportation/Housing and Financial Services while House allocations are higher for Defense, State/Foreign Operations, and Interior/Environment.
In the meantime, discussions on a continuing resolution will take place soon as, with fewer than 20 legislative days remaining until the start of the fiscal year, a continuing resolution will be required to keep the government functioning when current spending authority lapses on October 1. Don't expect any fireworks as neither side wants to risk a high-stakes showdown on the continuing resolution running up to the elections.
George C. Crawford