Legislative Activity

Democrats Continue to Push for a Budget Deal

The President and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to pressure Republicans for a budget deal to replace the sequester’s strict spending limits. Most House Democrats voted against the two sequester-level appropriations bills that were recently considered on the House floor, President Obama has not softened his veto threat for any appropriations bills that adhere to the caps, and it is unclear whether Senate Democrats will work with Republicans on FY 2016 appropriations bills without a budget deal.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the number three Democrat in the Senate and current Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) handpicked successor for 2016, recently warned Republicans that Senate Democrats will block all of the FY 2016 appropriations bills unless Republicans agree to replace the sequester. Senator Schumer also said any budget deal will have to increase defense spending and domestic discretionary spending by the same amount.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) seemed to take a softer approach to the appropriations process, saying Senate Democrats would take the appropriations bills one at a time, and did not ruling out the possibility of working with Republicans. However, she also said that moving forward with appropriations bills would be “almost impossible” under the Republicans’ “ridiculous” budget.

While pressure continues to build, it is unclear if Republicans will be willing to duplicate the Ryan-Murray budget deal from 2013. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has said negotiations on a budget deal can start any time, but it is unlikely Republicans will feel enough pressure to negotiate until later in the appropriations process.

Senate Looks Toward Appropriations Markups

The Senate will soon begin the process of approving appropriations bills, now that they have passed the FY 2016 budget resolution. According to an aide to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Committee aims to start marking up appropriations bills right before or after the Memorial Day recess, however Chairman Cochran must first determine the 302(b) subcommittee allocations.

Currently, the Committee has less than 90 days before the August recess, and will only have weeks after the recess before both the new fiscal year and the debt ceiling limit will be reached. Chairman Cochran has said he hopes to pass all twelve appropriations bills individually, but earlier this year noted he might have to group some together to expedite consideration. Securing floor time may also be a challenge given the Senate’s full schedule, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will set aside time for the appropriations bills.

House to Mark Up Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill

The House Appropriations Committee will hold a full-committee markup of the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill on Wednesday, May 13. The Committee will revise its 302(b) subcommittee allocations during the markup of the $55.3 billion appropriations bill. The bill currently includes a controversial rider that would limit travel between the United States and Cuba, an attempt to limit President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with the country.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, May 13: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup hearing of the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill.

Senate Appropriations Committee FY 2016 Budget Hearings

  • Tuesday, May 12: The Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Budget Request for the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Wednesday, May 13: The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Budget Request for the Bureau of Land Management.
  • Thursday, May 14: The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Budget Request for the National Labor Relations Board.