Senate to start on spending bills in mid-June

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has indicated that the least controversial of the bills -- that governing military construction and the department of Veterans Affairs -- will be moved through subcommittee first, an aide said Friday.

This week the House passed its version of the military construction bill and its version of a homeland security bill. 

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The White House threatened to veto the bills, prompting an angry letter from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who accused President Obama of threatening to shut down the government.

The Senate will step into this fracas by moving a military construction bill not very different from that passed by the House. Democrats and Republicans are mostly in agreement on how that particular bill should look. The dispute is over the overall spending level for all the bills since the House assumes automatic spending sequestration remains in effect and takes spending for social programs far below the sequester level.

Mikulski will use a top-line figure of $1.058 trillion, which assumes sequestration is turned off. 

With the veto threat outstanding, the full Senate could hold off on passing the military construction bill until later in the fall, in the hope that a wider budget agreement can be forged. Sending the bill to Obama only to have him veto a veterans bill with few cuts could put the president in a bad position politically. 

The veterans bill also could become a vehicle for a continuing resolution to keep the government operating after Oct. 1 as it has in the past. 

In any case, immigration will be the priority bill on the Senate floor for the rest of the month and disposition of the first annual appropriations title will depend on how speedily the Senate can dispense with immigration, an aide said. 

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