House Democrats gear up for minibus skirmishes

House Democrats expect relatively smooth sailing for the appropriations bill conference committee this week, but they nonetheless have prepared a list of demands to counter any GOP push to slash spending on priority areas.

As early as Thursday evening, House and Senate appropriators are slated meet for in conference committee for the first time since 2009. The topic will be the Senate-passed “minibus” bill containing funding for agriculture, transportation, housing, commerce and justice. 

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday he expects the conference committee to combine the minibus with a temporary spending bill keeping the government open past Nov. 18 when the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out.

Hoyer said it's yet unclear how long the CR will extend federal spending, but guessed it would last until some time between the Dec. 15 and 23.

“Assuming the CR is clean – doesn't have any of these riders or anything like that – I think that will pass relatively easily,” he said, predicting a vote the week of Nov. 13.

House Appropriations ranking member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) has prepared a list of priority areas for the minibus conference.

These include full funding for the Women, Infant and Child (WIC) nutrition program, for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and for food safety and inspection in the agriculture title.

In the Commerce-Justice title, Democrats want to preserve funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, for law enforcement agents to protect the southwest border, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Dicks says the GOP has pushed for too little Census Bureau funding and it would not be able to perform the 2012 economic census.

In transportation and housing, the Democrats are fighting hard for emergency relief funding, Amtrak, TIGER Grants, Housing Counseling Assistance, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and the Interagency Council on Homelessness.