Appropriators Punt on Labor-HHS Spending Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee won't consider a typically contentious federal spending bill this week.  

And it was unclear Wednesday whether Sen. Tom Harkin will ever get the chance to bring his final Labor-HHS-Education spending bill through the full Appropriations Committee.  

In a brief interview, Harkin said "there are no plans" for when a markup might happen.  

The spending panel was widely expected to consider the Iowa Democrat's $156.8 billion measure on Thursday, although it was not published on the official committee schedule. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said that she had the markup on her own calendar for Thursday.  

Murkowski's Democratic counterpart, Mark Begich, said he had heard talk among Democrats about wanting to put off the markup over a concern about possible gotcha-amendments. Both Alaska senators serve on the Appropriations Committee.  

"I think there are some that may not want to," Begich said.  

"But I am not worried about it," added Begich, who is in a tight re-election campaign of his own. "It's important to move these bills and there are always tough amendments, there is always tough debate."  

The bill funding the Department of Health and Human Services is ripe for amendments related to social policy and implementation of the health care law.  

"Look, we'll see what transpires on this, and we'll see what, what my position is on this in the next few days," Harkin said.