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Spending Process on Track

Partisanship Delayed Fiscal 2012 Work

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye urged lawmakers “to continue in the current bipartisan spirit” Tuesday after the Senate approved a package of three spending bills.

If Congress is still voting at Christmastime, it won't be the fault of appropriators.

Or at least that's the hope now that the Senate has approved a package of three spending bills that has jump-started the stalled appropriations process.

The Senate's 69-30 vote Tuesday for the package sets up the first appropriations conference since 2009, which could take place as soon as Thursday.

The House and Senate Appropriations chairmen have already been in talks to pave the way for a smooth conference, and they are expected to attach a short-term continuing resolution to the minibus package to stave off another shutdown fight.

The current CR expires Nov. 18, and Congressional aides predict the conference will push to extend government funding through mid-December. The move will buy time to devise a strategy that will likely include the passage of additional minibus bills.

After Tuesday's Senate vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that more spending bills were likely on their way to the floor.

"This experience that we have just completed these appropriations bills has worked out extremely well," the Nevada Democrat said.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said, "I urge my colleagues to continue in the current bipartisan spirit as we seek to move additional bills in the coming weeks."

The Senate is expected to take up a second minibus of three spending bills as soon as this week, Congressional aides said. The package will likely include three of the following four measures under discussion: the financial services and general government; Energy and water development; State and foreign operations; and Homeland Security appropriations bills.

As the minibus strategy moves along, one thing that remains unclear is the issue of policy riders. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday urging the Ohio Republican to exclude "partisan, ideological policy riders in appropriations bills."

"While not all policy riders are objectionable, many of those included this year are not only controversial but blatantly partisan," the Maryland Democrat wrote in a letter signed by 182 of his Caucus colleagues.

While Hoyer did indicate openness to including some riders in spending bills, he said, "It is important that Republicans not risk a government shutdown by playing politics with appropriations bills."

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