No Rest for the Weary: Time to Gear Up for Next Spending Bill Battle

Did you think you could check out for a week or two and take that well deserved break at the beach while lawmakers were back in their home states making the rounds of town halls? Think twice about that.

If you’re part of an industry or concern with any stake in this year’s appropriations process you might want to hustle back to town well before lawmakers officially return Sept. 5. Aides left behind in the Capitol during the August recess say the fiscal follies that have marked this year’s appropriations process aren’t over yet.

The Capitol

While House Republican leaders may be out of town, they’ve called in their orders for September, telling aides to get the eight unfinished appropriations bills ready to bring to the floor as soon as the first week back. That means lawmakers may need to start submitting their funding requests and policy changes soon, with aides saying the deadline for amendments could be as soon as Aug. 25.

GOP leaders envision those eight bills being combined with the four other House-passed bills in one massive omnibus. But that package—which will boost Pentagon spending while slashing other programs—isn’t expected to advance in the Senate, where it is subject to a budget challenge for greatly exceeding spending caps set in law.

What will that flurry of activity achieve? Passage of all 12 spending bills will enable GOP leaders to say they acted to fund the federal government and head off a crisis before current funds expire Sept. 30. But it also is expected to set the stage for a more serious negotiation about raising the Budget Control Act’s discretionary spending caps this fall.

House and Senate leaders in both parties have said they hope a new bipartisan budget deal lifting the caps will enable Congress to finalize a 12-bill omnibus all can support by the end of the year.