Look ahead: House to take up appropriations bills next week

The House will vote next week on the first two 2015 appropriations bills of the year.

Before leaving for the Easter recess, the House Appropriations Committee advanced the $71.5 billion military construction-Veterans Affairs Department spending bill, as well as the $3.3 billion measure funding the legislative branch.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said his panel is off to its earliest start since at least 1974. He has said his goal is for all of the 12 annual spending bills to pass before the August recess to avoid a massive omnibus measure after Sept. 30.

In 2013, the first appropriations bill of the year — Military Construction and Veterans Affairs — did not hit the House floor until June.

This year's measure would provide $1.8 billion less in funding than the current spending level, which matches the administration's request. The reduced funding for military construction is largely due to a lack of need for new construction projects, according to the House Appropriations Committee. But the legislation would increase spending for veterans' programs by $1.5 billion.

The legislative branch spending bill maintains current spending levels.

The budget deal struck last December eased the process for appropriators this year, having set a top-line spending figure for 2015. But appropriators have not yet established 302(b) allocations, which set spending caps for each of the 12 annual appropriations bills.

The allocations are usually released with the first spending bill. Democrats have said the appropriations bills should not move without the allocations due to concerns that measures such as the one for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services might be shortchanged.

The legislative branch and military construction measures are two of the traditionally easiest appropriations bills to pass. But other measures, such as the one for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, which was pulled from the floor last summer, can be more controversial.

 —Erik Wasson contributed.