Appropriations Update: A Return to Normalcy?

Oct 21, 2011 | Budgets & Projections

With just a month left to go before the temporary funding for FY 2012 runs out, the Senate is trying a different strategy from the one that has prevailed in Congress for the past year and a half in the upper chamber: they are actually trying to pass their appropriations bills, rather than relying on a continuing resolution. Granted, this strategy is not exactly like the 1974 Budget Act envisioned--passing the twelve appropriations bills one by one--but it is more in line with how the budget process has worked in practice. This strategy involves passing "minibuses," or groups of appropriations bills, to speed up the process.

Currently, the Senate is working on one which involves the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD bills, totaling $182 billion. These bills have been designed, like all others in the Senate, to stay within the Budget Control Act caps. These bills spend more than their House counterparts, but the House considered these bills under the lower overall cap of the House budget resolution and they are generally willing to use the higher BCA cap. But since the Senate is on recess next week, they don't plan to vote on it until November 1. David Rogers of POLITICO believes that because of the lateness of the vote, the House may just scrap the process and go with a full-year CR.

However, according to CQ (subscription required for link), it is looking increasingly likely that Congress could pass the minibus and use a stopgap CR for the remaining nine bills. Of course, this would not be unusual for the appropriations process in practice. Congress very rarely passes all of its appropriations bills on time and uses a CR for whatever bills it hasn't passed.

But whether Congress goes with a CR or the full appropriations route, it could all be complicated by the Super Committee's December 23 deadline (by which Congress will have to vote on the plan). If that's combined with an ongoing CR or appropriations bills, it'll be quite a spectacle -- a combination that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called "the mother of all endgames." We'll just have to see what happens.

The table below shows the status of each appropriations bill.

Appropriations Bill Status
BillHouse StatusSenate Status
AgriculturePassed HousePassed Committee
Commerce-Justice-SciencePassed CommitteePassed Committee
DefensePassed HousePassed Committee
Energy-WaterPassed HousePassed Committee
Financial ServicesPassed CommitteePassed Committee
Homeland SecurityPassed HousePassed Committee
Interior-Environment Passed CommitteeNo Action
Labor-HHS-Education No Action Passed Committee
Legislative Branch Passed House Passed Committee
Military Construction-VA Passed House Passed Senate
State-Foreign Operations Passed Subcommittee Passed Committee
Transportation-HUD Passed Subcommittee Passed Committee