With an eye toward the legislative calendar, House GOP leaders are considering bundling must-pass spending bills to accelerate the lengthy process of debating them on the floor.
In doing so, however, they risk angering conservatives, who note that leadership has long promised an open process so they can offer hundreds of amendments aimed at cutting spending that they can tout on the campaign trail.
All of this underscores the quandary Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers faces in trying to pass his dozen bills before the House adjourns this presidential election year: Short workweeks and pushback from Members of both parties will make it a difficult task to complete.
“Whatever we do, I want these bills on the floor under an open rule so Members can offer amendments as they see fit,” the Kentucky Republican said. “But mainly, I want to get the 12 bills considered. And floor time is at a real premium this election year, so we’re trying to expedite those as best we know how.”
Though the House recesses every third week and each workweek contains three or four workdays, an aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said appropriators need not worry about scheduling.
“We will continue to work with the Appropriations Committee regarding scheduling to ensure adequate floor time,” the aide said.
Nevertheless, this week marks the first floor debate on an appropriations bill — the Commerce, Justice and science bill — which will test how long it takes to work through amendments and pass a bill, or whether it can pass at all.
“It really depends on the Members and the amendments. If they come out with a couple hundred amendments, it’s going to be tough,” said Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), an appropriator.
Already, Members will be debating well into the night, and if the process drags on, leaders could consider packaging some combination of bills dealing with Defense, Homeland Security, State and foreign operations, military construction and Veterans Affairs, and Energy and water development.
“A lot of it will depend on how the CJS bill goes,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “There’s such limited amount of time on the floor, and they think this might be a way to get it.”
At the same time, leadership is being pressured from the right not to bundle bills. Rep. Tom McClintock gathered 43 House Republican signatories, many from the conservative Republican Study Committee, on a letter sent Tuesday to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Cantor asking that appropriations bills be brought to the floor individually.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.