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Senate Democrats May Skip Appropriations Season

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the House GOP is the major hurdle delaying the appropriations process.

“I hope like hell” we do take up some of the bills,” he said. “After putting us all to work like this, I expect some of the bills to pass.”

Inouye’s comments come as the House Appropriations Committee has cleared 10 of the 12 annual bills, five of which have been passed by the full House.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, said she believes that “there will be at least three” appropriations bills to get through the floor before the end of the fiscal year, but she did not say which bills.

Her subcommittee’s bill is a possible candidate, along with the Homeland Security appropriations bill, the military construction and Veterans Affairs spending measure and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill, which typically garner significant support in Congress.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is the ranking member of Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said she, too, believes Senate will manage to pass some appropriations bills.

“I do think we will pass some appropriations bills,” Collins said. “We’ve actually made pretty good progress in committee reporting bills. We’ve done most of the bills and most of them have come out with strong bipartisan votes, with only one of two exceptions.

“Last year we were able to do some of them at least and I thought that was good progress,” she continued, noting that it is up to Reid and Democratic leaders to decide if they want to move ahead with any of the bills.

Other Republicans were less optimistic and compared the situation to Senate Democrats’ decision not to pursue a budget resolution; something Republicans argue is a dereliction of Congress’ basic governing responsibilities.

Democrats reject the criticism and argue that the law passed last summer setting spending levels for next year basically has the same practical effect as a budget resolution, and therefore made going the through the budget process unnecessary.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he doesn’t believe that Democrats want to have a spending debate, which could be fodder for gotcha campaign ads ahead of the November elections.

“If you start voting for the appropriations bills, you actually have to say publicly what you are for,” Blunt said. “Harry has been pretty open about [how] it would politically foolish to vote for the budget because then we say what we are for. I can’t believe that that is the given excuse but it is. And I think maybe the appropriations bills aren’t being dealt with for the same reason.

“If you don’t have a record, I suppose you take the chance of not having to run on your record,” Blunt continued. In contrast, he said, House Republicans have gone “on record” by passing a budget resolution and appropriations bills.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said Democrats are also the victims of Senate Republicans, who he said have not been timid about flexing their procedural muscles to obstruct the legislative process.

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