New Effort to Restart Appropriations

Posted July 15, 2008 at 6:40pm

House Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) on Tuesday offered a new gambit to restart the appropriations process, stalled for weeks by a dispute over oil drilling. But Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) refused to say whether he would accept Lewis’ terms.

Lewis’ plan would require Obey to bring the Interior spending bill to the full committee before lawmakers leave town for the August recess, something that Obey has so far refused to do. That would allow Republicans to offer an amendment revoking the Congressional ban on offshore drilling.

In return, Lewis pledged that Republicans would refrain from trying to attach similar provisions to any of the other six remaining spending bills.

“We have important work to complete on behalf of those who send us to Washington to do the people’s business,” Lewis wrote to Obey. “My schedule is open to meet with you at any time and I remain willing to work with you to resume our work.”

Obey put a hold on all of the appropriations bills after Lewis tried to hijack the Labor-HHS bill and replace it with the Interior bill to force a series oil drilling votes.

Republicans charge that Democrats are afraid of losing votes on drilling, while Democrats argue that Republicans breached long-standing committee etiquette.

Lewis’ latest move came as President Bush chided lawmakers for failing to send him any spending bills, noting that the pace this year is the worst in two decades.

“There are just 26 legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year. This means that to get their fundamental job done, Congress would have to pass a spending bill nearly every other day,” Bush said at a news conference. “This is not a record to be proud of, and I think the American people deserve better.”

Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the panel’s Defense Subcommittee, put off a subcommittee markup planned for today, in part because of uncertainty over how to structure the rebidding of the Air Force tanker contract.

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, suggested that with a thaw in the process, the Defense bill could get back on track in short order. “History shows this bill can move very quickly,” he said.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.