GOP Appropriations chair says he still hopes for budget compromise

Republicans have said they are looking for a way forward on a House-Senate budget deal, but in the meantime, they have rejected calls to go to start a conference on the two different budget plans. The GOP says it wants to get closer to the outlines of a deal before starting the conference, while Democrats have criticized this position as one that dodges the responsibility of Congress to make every effort in conference to find a deal.

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Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, said in response to Rogers that the failure to go to conference is jeopardizing the appropriations process.

"[T]he Republican majority's refusal to go to conference to forge a bipartisan agreement on the budget resolution really is unacceptable," she said. "This imperils this year's appropriation process, making it nearly impossible to move all 12 bills.

"Instead, it is likely that we will consider in the full House only a few bills with reasonable allocations … while others are left in limbo indefinitely until we pass a continuing resolution."

Lowey's assessment seems increasingly likely, as Republicans will likely have trouble writing and passing spending bills for various social programs that contain deeper cuts to make up for increased spending for Defense and security.

Rogers and Lowey were debating H.R. 2216, the 2014 spending bill for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Despite the fight over the entire budget, members of both parties indicated support for this bill, in particular language and funding dealing with the backlog of disability claims that the VA is facing.

The VA has been pressured by Congress to resolve the 890,000 outstanding claims that it has yet to process, including about 600,000 that have taken longer than 125 days.

To get at this issue, the bill increases VA discretionary funding by $2.1 billion, which will help pay for claims processors. It also includes language requiring the VA to report to Congress on its progress reducing the backlog, and pushes the VA to move to an electronic health records system for veterans.

"The bill includes funding that will jumpstart efforts to clean up the backlog, and force DOD and VA to get moving on a system that should have been in place years ago," Rogers said.