Top appropriators hope to secure bipartisan, bicameral agreement by the end of the week on overall funding totals for a massive 12-bill spending package, which would prevent a government shutdown on Dec. 11 and boost agency budgets for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“The next few days will tell us a lot about whether Congress can pull off the bipartisan, bicameral appropriations process that I believe both sides would like to deliver,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor on Tuesday.
“Our colleagues on the committee and their counterparts in the House need to continue their bicameral discussions and settle on top-line dollar amounts for each separate bill,” he said. “I hope they will be able to reach this broad agreement by the end of this very week.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby told reporters that “extensive talks“ are happening “on the staff level and so forth.“
“We’re trying to get there,” the Alabama Republican said of an agreement on overall totals for the 12 appropriations bills that would comprise an omnibus spending deal, otherwise known as 302(b)s. “We believe there’s a little bit of momentum here now, so let’s see what we can do.“
Partisan pitfalls to an agreement: Both House and Senate appropriators have to work out the differences between their versions of fiscal 2021 spending bills. Senate Republicans released their appropriations bills last week, while House Democrats unveiled their measures and passed most of them in two bundles earlier this year.
Some spending bills, like the measure that funds the Agriculture Department and the FDA, should be a relatively easy lift. But Democrats are already pushing for more money for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, more funding for environmental conversation, language that ties police funding to reform measures, additional coronavirus aid and more.
“We have some basic agreements in principle,” but nothing has been agreed upon, Shelby said on Tuesday.
No guarantees from Trump: Shelby also said that he hasn’t received assurances from the White House that President Donald Trump will support a sweeping omnibus package, let alone a continuing resolution to extend current funding levels and keep the government open if congressional leaders can’t agree on a broader spending deal.
“We understand that the president has a powerful voice,” Shelby said. “Let’s see what we can accomplish first.”
The White House and the Office of Management and Budget didn’t respond to two requests for comment about whether the president would sign an omnibus package.
Pessimistic about pandemic aid: Democrats and Republicans are also glum about the prospects of attaching more coronavirus relief to a broader funding deal.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a senior appropriator, said the best chances for passing pandemic aid during a lame duck session of Congress might be rolling the stimulus into an omnibus package.
“But we’ll see,” he told reporters on Monday night. “There seems to be more interest in trying to move an omnibus and more serious discussion about that than I’ve heard about a Covid package.”
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