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Appropriators Finally Get Their Chance

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski, left, and others on the committee will be busy setting allocation levels.

Durbin told reporters after the news conference that the objective is to get a completed omnibus spending bill through Congress by the time the current stopgap spending law expires in the middle of January, without the need for any additional continuing resolutions.

“We’re back the sixth [of January]. The House is back the seventh of January,” Durbin said. “We have one week to finish the deal and be able to make the Jan. 15 deadline.”

Even though much of the Capitol expects to have a longer holiday break than in recent years, accomplishing that goal will require long hours for appropriations staff on both sides of the Rotunda in the coming weeks. Durbin noted the scale of his bill alone.

“We’re talking about $600 billion, right south of that, in this bill for defense and intelligence, and our staffs have already started sitting down and working it out, and we’re going to do it with Thad Cochran and Pete Visclosky — it’s totally bipartisan,” Durbin said.

Cochran and Visclosky are the ranking members on the Senate and House Defense subpanels, respectively.

“There’s a lot to do, but they’re good, talented people,” Durbin said. “They want to get it done.”

Rogers echoed Durbin’s optimism, telling reporters that the appropriators will “find a way to make this work,” despite the truncated timeline.

“There will not be a shutdown, and I have confidence that we’ll be able to get an omnibus bill put together ... that’s passable and will be passed,” Rogers said on Dec. 12. “We’ve got a number now that we can work with.”

The longtime House appropriator expanded on his comments during an interview for Sunday’s edition of C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.

“What we will be doing is implementing the Ryan-Murray budget agreement that they voted for. We will do the implementation of that,” Rogers said. “So, I would hope that those who voted for the Ryan budget will also now vote for the implementation of the Ryan budget.”

The most likely alternative to the omnibus spending bill would be another continuing resolution, perhaps with levels adjusted upward to the $1.012 trillion level provided under the portion of the legislation that serves the function of a budget resolution.

Ideally, appropriators want to set the stage for a return to more normal lawmaking for fiscal 2015.

Reid, himself a veteran of the Appropriations Committee, said the agreement would establish budget levels for two years, something Mikulski and other appropriators had long sought.

“Instead of lurching forward from crisis to crisis, we’re now going to have a two-year appropriation cycle. We’ve been wanting to do this for many years and because of Sen. Murray’s leadership we’ve been able to do that,” Reid said last week.

Successfully moving regular spending bills through the floor would be a tall order in an election year, even if everyone agrees on the top-line numbers, since they would create opportunities for politically charged amendments.

But if all goes according to plan, next year just might mean appropriators get to do their work again.

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