Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is considering a new path to completing the FY16 appropriations process. He may attempt to bring a version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill to the floor for full Senate consideration during the week of November 16. It is unclear if Democrats will block a motion to proceed on the bill, as they did with other spending bills before the sequester spending caps were lifted in early November, or if they will allow the bill to move forward. Meanwhile, House and Senate subcommittees are conferencing together to negotiate a 12-bill spending omnibus by December 11.
A THUD bill brought to the Senate floor during the week of November 16 would be a substitute amendment to the THUD bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on June 25 (see Memo, 7/29/2015). The substitute amendment would reflect some level of increased spending allowed by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA), which raised sequester level spending caps. While the rationale for this move is unclear, it will provide Majority Leader McConnell an opportunity to demonstrate to his Republican colleagues that he is able to move appropriations bills on the Senate floor.
Since the BBA was enacted in early November, the Senate and House THUD appropriations subcommittees have been negotiating differences between their respective THUD bills. A Senate bill brought to the floor the week of November 16 would not reflect these negotiations, but would show a Senate approach on how to increase program funding levels given the additional resources provided by the BBA.
Regardless of whether the Senate considers a THUD bill the week of November 16, Congress’s goal is to include a THUD bill negotiated between the House and Senate in an omnibus appropriations bill. Congress has until December 11, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires, to enact an omnibus spending bill or pass another CR. If neither occurs by December 11, there will be another shut down of the federal government.
On November 10, the Senate unanimously passed its first FY16 appropriations bill, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) bill. The BBA provided an additional $2.1 billion above pre-BBA funding for MilCon-VA. Prior to the passage of the MilCon-VA bill, Senate Democrats had been united in opposing FY16 bills that were written under the austere sequester level spending caps.
“The budget deal allowed Congress to provide an additional $2 billion for veterans’ health care, so promises made to our veterans are promises kept. I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle and across the dome to pass a bipartisan, 12-bill appropriations omnibus by December 11 so there is no Christmas crisis,” Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said upon the MilCon-VA bill’s passage.
Read Vice Chair Mikulski’s statement at: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/minority/vice-chairwoman-mikulski-statement-on-senate-passage-of-fy16-veterans-affairs-and-military-construction-appropriations-bill
NLIHC’s budget chart is at: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16HUD-USDA_Budget-Chart.pdf