Republican appropriators in the House are starting to discuss potential terms for a stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating after September, even as both chambers gear up for a flurry of action this week on competing spending measures.
House Republicans say they are undecided so far on whether to press a simple extension at the fiscal 2013 level of roughly $988 billion for discretionary spending programs or to a stopgap bill at the roughly $967 billion level now demanded by federal law.
GOP appropriators will not work with the $1.058 trillion level for discretionary spending sought by Senate Democrats, according to Mike Simpson, a GOP appropriator and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.
The appropriators also have not decided how long a continuing resolution will last, whether it is a matter of weeks or months.
“That’s under discussion,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
The discussions behind the scenes on a CR are coming as the House and Senate are pushing their differences on spending out to the stronger glare of committee markups and floor action.
House appropriators this week are expected to reveal the details of their Labor-HHS- Education spending bill for fiscal 2014, a plan that includes deep cuts for domestic programs, including the federal health care law (PL 111-148, 111-152).
Scheduled for a subcommittee markup on Thursday, the House bill sets funding at $121.8 billion, which would be $27.8 billion, or almost 19 percent, below current spending. That would also be $42.5 billion, or 26 percent, less than the rival $164.3 billion Senate spending bill.
Conservatives have been pressing the GOP leadership to bring the bill forward, arguing that advancing the bill will strengthen the House hand in negotiating any later agreement on the fiscal 2014 budget.
The differences between the chambers are unlikely to be resolved while leaders jockey to improve their position for a larger budget deal expected this year, perhaps as late as December, Simpson said.
Republican leaders and some conservatives have blocked attempts to go to conference to reconcile the two versions the fiscal 2014 budget resolution (H Con Res 25, S Con Res 8) because they don’t want such talks to include discussion on raising additional revenue.
“Personally, I think we ought to appoint conferees on the budget, but I don’t think they would get anything done,” Simpson said.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., on July 19 urged Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to move ahead on the stalled budget conference, which he said would aid in quickly resolving the question of the level of the CR.
“We need to adopt a funding resolution by Sept. 30 in some form or fashion,” Hoyer said. “The failure to go to conference is undermining our ability to do that.”
Cantor said he’s “not so sure there’s going to be resolution as to a budget conference” but that work would continue toward hammering out the framework for the eventual passage of final fiscal 2014 spending law.
“It does not mean that we cannot continue the work that we are doing on the appropriations bills and on the other policy measures that are coming to this floor in hopes of finding areas we can agree on,” Cantor said. “But there is a strong one we disagree on, and that is the issue of additional revenues in an environment where Washington doesn’t spend what it does spend well.”
Although Cantor has said he would bring all dozen fiscal 2014 spending bills to the House floor, the chamber has not done as well this year in moving spending measures as it did last year.
Still, the House Appropriations Committee is on track to end this week with 10 of its fiscal 2014 bills approved. In addition to the work on the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the Interior- Environment panel marks up its draft on Tuesday and the full committee acts Wednesday on the State-Foreign Operations bill.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will seek Tuesday to bring up the first fiscal 2014 spending bill, with a key procedural vote set on the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development measure (S 1243). Senate appropriators are slated to approve this week the Financial Services-General Government and State-Foreign Operations measures, the ninth and 10th annual measures to move through the committee. The Defense bill is expected to be marked up next week.
Democrats also have some domestic programs they are not anxious to bring to the forefront.
Bringing the Interior-Environment bill to a markup in Senate Appropriations could highlight differences among Democrats on policies regarding drilling and the energy business. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, conservative Democrats from energy-producing states, serve on Appropriations.