Legislative Activity

Senate Joins House in Appropriations Effort

Senate Appropriators begin work on their FY 2016 spending bills this week, with subcommittee markups scheduled Tuesday for the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Energy-Water appropriations bills. Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) has not publicly revealed how he apportions the mandated topline discretionary funding level of $1.07 trillion among the twelve appropriations bills (302(b) allocations); however, it is expected that the allocations will closely, if not identically, align with those designated by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). Moreover, the Senate is starting the process with the same two measures as the House, which indicates the committee chairmen are working together on their appropriations strategy. While not officially scheduled, the Senate Appropriations Committee may squeeze in a full committee markup of both bills, and the 302(b) allocations, before the Memorial Day recess.

Over in the House, a floor vote is expected as early as Tuesday on the FY 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2250). On Wednesday, the Appropriations Committee will consider the $51.4 billion Commerce-Justice- Science spending bill and the Defense Subcommittee will mark up its FY 2016 bill.

Appropriations work will resume following the Memorial Day recess. Of note, House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) stated he intends to produce an FY 2016 spending bill before the July Fourth recess, which would be the first subcommittee draft of the bill in two years. The Labor-HHS-Education measure has become the most contentious appropriations bill because of its funding size and Republican efforts to use the bill to advance policies against the 2010 health care law (P.L. 111-148, P.L. 111-152) and other agency regulations, as well as to include anti-abortion riders opposed by Democrats. Democrats will especially oppose the FY 2016 measure, as it will reduce spending levels by more than two percent from current spending.

Look for the Appropriations Process to Heat Up

The appropriations process will likely get more contentious this summer. White House and Congressional Democrats will continue to push Republicans to negotiate a budget deal that would replace the sequester for both defense and non-defense programs. The President quickly issued veto threats on the two FY 2016 appropriations bills passed out of the House and House Democrats have thus far shown they are willing to sustain those vetoes by voting against the bills on the floor. Typically the Military Construction-VA spending bill receives over 400 ‘yes’ votes in the House; the vote on the FY 2016 bill was 255-163. Senate Democrats, under the leadership of Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and his presumed successor, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have indicated they intend to implement a similar strategy, challenging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY), who needs to get the support of at least six Democrats (and the entirety of the Republican caucus) to advance legislation to the Senate floor. Moreover, as the bills and funding levels get larger, it will be difficult for Republican leaders to sustain the support of fiscal conservatives.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, May 19: The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on oversight of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

FY 2016 Appropriations Subcommittee/Committee Markups

  • Tuesday, May 19: The Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2016 Military Construction-VA Appropriations Bill.
  • Tuesday, May 19: The Senate Appropriations Energy-Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2016 Energy-Water Appropriations Bill.
  • Wednesday, May 20: The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will hold a CLOSED markup of the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill.
  • Wednesday, May 20: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup of the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.