Approprations Update: No Drama This Time

After an eleventh-hour deal that included a dramatic showdown in April and a minor standoff in September, it's nice to see a continuing resolution deadline that goes by without shutdown threats.

On Monday, the House and Senate completed a conference report on the first "minibus" appropriations bill, which includes the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD bills. The bills would spend a total of $128 billion and, more importantly, the package included a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the rest of government funded through December 16. The conference report found opposition among conservatives because of a provision that would increase the Federal Housing Administration's loan limit from $625,000 to $729,750 and the fact that overall spending levels were above the House budget resolution. However, the conference report easily cleared both chambers on Thursday and is on the way to President Obama's desk for signature.

What happens now that the minibus/CR combination has passed is less certain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to create a second minibus consisting of the Energy-Water, State-Foreign Operations, and Financial Services bills, but he was blocked earlier in the week from doing so. Even if another minibus is created, it could be bogged down by numerous riders related to, for example, attempts to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition to the second minibus, Reid has also promised to bring the Defense appropriations bill, which has already passed the House, to the floor.

Considering the one month timeframe, the Thanksgiving recess, and the snag that the second minibus has already hit--not to mention other things that Congress will have to deal with in December--it is very likely that the remaining nine bills will be wrapped into one package. It will be a tough negotiation since appropriations bills like Labor-HHS-Education and Financial Services are sure to invite policy riders and bitter fights over funding of the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank, among other things. Still, there is a concerted effort by members of Congress to get these bills done so they aren't fighting battles over this year's budget well into next calendar year, and as the election season heats up.

This process may not be how the budget process would work ideally, but at least it's being used, unlike last year.

Status of Appropriations Bills
Bill House Status Senate Status
Agriculture Passed Full Congress Passed Full Congress
Commerce-Justice-Science Passed Full Congress Passed Full Congress
Transportation-HUD Passed Full Congress Passed Full Congress
Military Construction-VA Passed Passed
Defense Passed Passed by Committee
Energy-Water Passed Passed by Committee
Homeland Security Passed Passed by Committee
Legislative Branch Passed Passed by Committee
Financial Services Passed by Committee Passed by Committee
Interior-Environment Passed by Committee No Action
Labor-HHS-Education No Action Passed by Committee
State-Foreign Operations Passed by Subcommittee Passed by Committee