Appropriation bills stall in Senate

Senate leaders could not agree Thursday on an amendment process to a “minibus” spending bill that aims to fund parts of the government after September.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to get unanimous consent to hold votes on germane amendments to the three appropriations bills as long as passage was held to a 60-vote threshold. 

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“Senators on both sides have said they want to have amendments and we should have amendment votes,” Reid said. “We’re going to have the ability to offer germane amendments and we will follow the ‘McConnell rule’ and hold amendments to 60 votes.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, saying only controversial amendments should be held to a 60-vote threshold.

“We’re being shut out of amendments,” McConnell said. “When will we start legislating again?”

The Senate is now officially considering H.R. 4660, a $120 billion “minibus” spending bill that funds the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. But it seems unlikely that progress will be made on the legislation until an amendment process agreement is reached. 

Earlier this week, the Senate voted 95-3 to end debate on the motion to proceed, but Republicans have complained that Reid has allowed only nine votes on Republican amendments since last July.

"I’ve never seen the majority stifling amendments like they are right now," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. "It’s pathetic and it’s got to change."

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will likely spend the weekend trying to figure out a way to proceed.