The unexpected primary election loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) could have repercussions on the FY15 appropriations process. Cantor will step down as Leader on July 31st and then serve the remainder of his term. The GOP will hold elections next week to determine who will succeed Cantor as Majority Leader, and that person may have a different opinion on how best to move forward – or not – with FY15 appropriations.
Cantor had been helpful to House appropriators by allowing them floor time with few restrictions on amendments so that they may advance their bills. This is due in large part because the current GOP leaders supported the December budget deal that established overall spending levels for FY15. However, if a more conservative leader emerges from the party’s right flank, which includes members who opposed the spending accord, the individual might have little interest and support for moving FY15 spending bills. Instead, the new leader may favor a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep current funding in place for FY15 and allow for new negotiations in the next Congress, when the GOP might control both the House and Senate.
Meanwhile, the Senate continues to move their FY15 spending bills through the process. Next week they hope to move a package of three largely non-controversial FY15 spending bills as part of a new strategy of clustering funding measures in an effort to save floor time and build bipartisan support. Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-HUD, and Agriculture are the three bills to be “clustered” next week.
Unfortunately, the Senate postponed further action on their Labor-HHS-Education measure yesterday. This tends to be the most controversial bill in the appropriations process because it funds many domestic programs that Republicans do not support.
While it is still too early to know for sure, it is looking more and more likely that Congress will approve a CR sometime before the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30th. They will then recess until after the mid-term elections and then return to DC for a lame duck session to complete the FY15 appropriations process – the fate of which will depend on the outcome of the November elections.