The Senate’s inability to reach an amendment deal on a three-bill “minibus” could dash hopes for remaining FY 2015 spending bills. Though some Senate Republicans and Democrats say they want to find a way forward to debate fiscal 2015 spending bills, it’s not clear whether they can overcome the substantial distrust that scuttled this week’s attempt to advance the minibus combining three appropriations measures. Several Republicans and Democrats said that they still want to find a way forward, but it’s not clear whether that will be possible. The bill is technically still available for floor debate and Senate leaders had previously set aside next week to work on the package.
The floor setback in followed another blow to the Senate appropriations process on Wednesday night, when the Appropriations Committee postponed a markup of the traditionally bipartisan Energy-Water spending bill, the second such delay in a week. Last week, the panel delayed a planned markup of the more controversial Labor-HHS-Education measure. Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) said she postponed the markup in consultation with other Democratic leaders because the White House was going to threaten to veto the Energy-Water measure because of a controversial amendment offered by the GOP to block the EPA’s recently announced carbon standards for existing power plants.
Meanwhile, the House is due to pass its fifth FY 2015 spending bill on today. The $570.4 billion Defense bill would increase some Pentagon funding and reverse war policies. House leaders have not settled on which spending bill they will take up after Defense. One option could be the $20.9 billion Agriculture bill that was pulled from the floor last week with GOP leaders focused on the election of a new majority leader and unable to whip against potentially divisive amendments. Another option for House leaders could be to take up their Energy-Water spending bill, which would allow Republicans an opportunity to attach provisions to block the new EPA carbon emission rules.
Whatever bill comes next, the House faces increasingly long odds in meeting appropriators’ goal of passing all twelve FY 2015 spending bills by the August recess – and it is certain that the Senate will be further behind in it’s appropriations work.