CHN: Appropriations Update: Prospect of Omnibus Appropriations Bill Looms
With several major spending bills for fiscal year 2004 still unfinished, Republican leadership is asking House and Senate appropriators to prepare for an omnibus appropriations package that would be finished by November 18. Congress must approve 13 spending bills each year to keep the government running. Although the new fiscal year started October 1, only three appropriations bills have been signed into law by the President so far (Defense, Homeland Security and Legislative Branch).
The House has cleared all 13 appropriations, but the Senate is stalled on Commerce-Justice-State, VA-HUD, Military Construction, and the DC appropriations bills. Bills that have passed the House and Senate but remain stuck in conference negotiations by the November 18 deadline could also become part of the omnibus package. The Senate will continue its work on individual bills next week, tackling the Commerce-State- Justice and VA-HUD – with the possibility that these will get folded into the omnibus bill.
A large omnibus bill could face procedural objections by Democrats, who charge that they have been excluded from conference committees on the energy and Medicare prescription drug bills. In addition, Republicans and Democrats would have to iron out several contentious issues in the omnibus bill, including whether or not to provide funding to the Labor Department to implement its proposed changes to rules on overtime pay.
Although it is unclear when Congress will adjourn for the year, the November 18 omnibus deadline is an indication that Republican leadership is hoping to wrap up legislative business and go home before Thanksgiving.