Congress

Senate appropriators to begin spending sprint next week to avoid shutdown

Some type of stopgap funding measure almost surely required for at least some federal agencies to avoid a partial shutdown

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby said before the summer recess he hoped to bundle at least three bills together to fund the lion’s share of discretionary spending. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate appropriators are planning to advance as many as four fiscal 2020 spending bills next week, as part of a monthlong sprint to make up for lost time.

The Appropriations Committee tentatively plans to mark up on Sept. 12 the draft Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy-Water and State-Operations bills, a package that would amount to a third of the 12 annual bills needed for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The committee also plans to approve its subcommittee allocations, which set the overall spending limits for each of the bills, on that same day, according to people familiar with the process.

Unlike the House, which has already passed 10 of its 12 bills, the Senate remains far behind in the work required to avoid a government shutdown starting next month. With only three legislative weeks left before the new fiscal year begins, some type of stopgap funding measure will almost surely be required for at least some federal agencies to avoid a partial shutdown.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Alabama, said before the summer recess he was hoping to bundle at least three of the bills together to fund the lion’s share of discretionary spending for the coming year: the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education and Energy-Water bills. Sources said Wednesday the State-Foreign Operations bill could be added to the mix.

The work will begin Sept. 10, when the Defense and the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittees advance their respective bills, according to public schedules. The overall plan is for the full committee to mark up four bills each week for the next three weeks, with the troublesome Homeland Security measure last in the queue.

It’s not clear how quickly the Senate could process a bundle of spending measures once they are reported out of committee, however, let alone whether the House and Senate would have enough time to meld them together to beat the fiscal 2020 deadline.

Given the time crunch before the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, congressional leaders will need to turn their attention to the stopgap funding measure that will be needed soon after lawmakers return to Washington next week. The White House last week submitted its so-called anomalies list to Capitol Hill, requesting various adjustments from a continuing resolution to fund bipartisan priorities such as preparations for the 2020 census, as well as more partisan initiatives like border wall construction.

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