Appropriations Work Gets Underway

Despite earlier assertions of success, it appears that the House will not be able to pass a budget resolution this year.  While the resolution would have been nonbinding, it serves as a roadmap for how spending is allocated among the 12 appropriations subcommittees.

The Appropriations committees and subcommittees, however, appear to be undaunted by this lack of procedural progress.  This week, the full House Appropriations Committee took up the first in the series of funding measures – the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill and two other bills – Energy & Water and Agriculture – were considered in their respective Appropriations Subcommittees.  These ‘preemptive strikes’ were made in hopes of being able to bring all 12 appropriations measures to the House Floor for consideration before the Chamber is overtaken by campaign fever.  Right now, the House is scheduled to begin its traditional “August Recess” on July 15 and not return until well after Labor Day.  This would leave only two or three weeks until the end of the fiscal year (September 30) when funding to keep the government running expires.

The Senate, meanwhile, is taking an unprecedented step ahead of the House in dealing with spending bills this year.  Senate appropriators are determined to move bills individually this year and, if at all possible, avoid the need for continuing resolutions or omnibus spending acts.  The Constitution requires that all “revenue or spending” measures originate in the House.  However, given the current House struggles on the budget resolution, the Senate has decided to take a most unusual step.  They plan to use bill language from FY 16 as the foundation for their 2017 appropriations measures.  Since FY 16 funding was ultimately made via an Omnibus Appropriations Act, the FY 16 bills were not passed individually.  This means that, technically, they are still on the books through the end of this year (end of the Second Session of the 114th Congress) and can be brought forward to serve as funding vehicles for FY 17 appropriations measures without waiting for House action.  Using that format, the Senate Appropriations Committee has announced that it plans to take up both Military Construction and Energy & Water appropriations bills next week at both the subcommittee and full committee levels.  The goal is to bring as many funding bills as possible to the Senate Floor beginning this month.

There is no word, yet, as to when appropriators in either Chamber plan to take up a bill for Interior-EPA.