Appropriations Still Avoiding Thorny Issues

The House and Senate have completed their individual measures and are prepping to go to conference on seven of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 15 (Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans, State/Foreign Operations, and Transportation/HUD).  The House has finished its version of three more funding bills — those for Defense, Energy & Water, and Financial Services.  The two remaining appropriations accounts — Interior, Environment & Related Agencies and Labor/HHS/Education — have not been taken up in either Chamber because of their tendencies to serve as lightning rods for a variety of contentious issues and frequent polarizing policy amendments.
The outlook is somewhat murky as to whether Congress will actually be able to resolve differences and pass any of these measures as stand-alone funding legislation by the end of this fiscal year.  The prospects for mini versions of an all-encompassing omnibus measure (being called “minibuses”) are a little but not too much better.  Although the House has sworn to pass all 12 of the funding measures, the Senate is less inclined to do so and, in fact, Senator Richard Shelby (AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has already begun to consider that it may be more likely that we will see a Continuing Resolution at least through November 15, 2014 (i.e., after the fall elections).