Appropriators Ready Omnibus For Action

Closely guarding any progress, House and Senate Appropriations staff worked over the holiday recess to reconcile their respective versions of FY 2014 spending bills in order to incorporate them into a comprehensive omnibus package. Early this week, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) will meet in an effort to work through any remaining funding or policy issues.

Prior to the collapse of the FY 2014 appropriations process and the 17-day government shutdown, the House approved four of its spending bills – Defense, Energy & Water, Homeland Security and Military Construction. All remaining bills, with the exception of Interior & Environment and Labor-HHS-Education, were approved by the full Appropriations Committee. Not a single FY 2014 spending bill was brought to the Senate floor, although all but Interior & Environment were approved by the Appropriations Committee.

Appropriators are optimistic they can resolve the funding differences between the House and Senate versions of most of the spending bills and indeed, Chairs Mikulski and Rogers agreed to limit policy riders in the omnibus. However, the three most contentious bills – and those with the largest funding gap between the House and Senate versions – may present obstacles too difficult to overcome: funding for healthcare reform in the Labor-HHS-Education bill; funding for Dodd-Frank regulations in the Financial Services bill, and environmental policy riders in the Interior and Environment bill. Hence, these bills are the most likely candidates to be covered through a continuing resolution as opposed to a full budget.

In order to enact legislation prior to the January 15 expiration of the current FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (P.L. 113-46), Congressional leaders would like to bring the omnibus to the House floor later this week, with a possible vote on Friday, to enable the Senate can take up the bill on January 13. It is expected that the bill will be brought up under a procedure which will limit, if not altogether prevent, the introduction of amendments.