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Appropriations Bundling Resisted

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers faces a quandary in trying to pass his dozen bills before the House adjourns this presidential election year.

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“I believe in the process. The process has evolved over centuries to distill good decisions from many diverse viewpoints,” the California Republican said in an interview. “One of the reasons we’ve got into this mess as a country is that we’ve put this process aside.”

The letter notes that Boehner called for doing away with comprehensive spending bills and in his 2010 “Pledge to America” promised to offer legislative issues one at a time and allow Members to offer amendments to cut spending.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who signed the letter, said he wants an open process to slam Attorney General Eric Holder with appropriations riders to influence him into releasing documents related to the “Operation Fast and Furious” gun surveillance program.

“To quote John Boehner, ‘letting the House work its will,’” the South Carolina Republican said. “It’s slow, it’s deliberate. I just think it’s the best way to do it.”

The letter did not explicitly say Members would vote against a package, but McClintock said bundling the bills would increase the chances he would vote “no.”

In that case, Republicans might have to rely on Democrats to pass appropriations bills, as they did last year. But the landscape changed when Republicans capped fiscal 2013 spending at $1.028 trillion in the House-passed budget.

Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks said he will try to help pass as many bills as he can.

“They’ve worked with us. We’ve helped put the bills together. We’re trying to be constructive,” the Washington Democrat said.

But Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that going back on last year’s agreement to set spending levels at $1.047 trillion angered President Barack Obama.

“The administration has indicated, as a result, that it is inclined to not support bills that do not reflect the agreement, and therefore do not reflect investment in the priorities we believe in,” the Maryland Democrat said. “I agree with the president on this, personally. We made an agreement, a compromise.”

Even so, there is no guarantee that bundling bills could save time, Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson noted. Instead, it would simply ensure that leadership has to muster 218 votes only once, rather than several times.

“I’m not sure how it makes it more efficient,” the Missouri Republican said. “The only difference is that we have one final vote maybe, but you’re still going to have all these people still offering amendments.”

Bundling could help pass a bill such as State and foreign operations, which cuts some foreign aid programs, a move decried by Democrats. But it could just as easily endanger other bills’ chances of passage.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Bill Young said he thinks it would be easier to pass his bill as a stand-alone because it usually passes with bipartisan support every year.

“This bill is clean, there’s no earmarks,” the Florida Republican said. “I think the Defense bill should be the Defense bill and it should be handled as such.”

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