The next three months are crunch time for appropriators hoping to pass as many of the 12 annual spending bills as possible before the August recess.
So far, appropriators have set a brisk early pace for the fiscal 2015 bills, holding scores of budget and oversight hearings earlier this spring and, in the case of the House panel, even reporting two spending measures out of committee before the April break. But House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and his Senate counterpart, Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., were slowed somewhat because the Congressional Budget Office had not yet scored the White House budget request.
That analysis is now complete, so appropriators have comparative numbers and can resume writing and marking up spending bills.
The new fiscal year does not start until Oct. 1, but appropriators and party leaders are mindful that the five-week August recess and the campaign homestretch will mark an end to substantive legislative work.
With that in mind, Rogers is pushing for the House to pass all 12 appropriations bills by the August recess. The two spending measures approved by committee, Military Construction-VA(HR 4486) and Legislative Branch (HR 4487), are expected to hit the House floor this week. The committee, meanwhile, will turn its attention to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill next.
On the Senate side, Mikulski said her full committee will hold its first markup, of the Military Construction-VA bill, around May 22 and that she hopes the chamber can pass some early bills individually and clear the rest in “minibuses,” which package several bills together, by Oct. 1.
But before either full committee can mark up more spending bills, they must separately determine how to divide up $1.014 trillion in discretionary money between the 12 appropriations bills, also known as setting 302(b) allocations.
House appropriators already agreed earlier this month on 302(b)s for the Military Construction-VA and Legislative Branch bills in order to allow for rapid floor consideration, but they must still divvy up a pot of more than $939 billion in discretionary money that remains between the 10 other bills. Senate Appropriations must set spending levels for all 12 of its annual measures.
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.