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Fights over police reform, COVID-19 delay Senate appropriations markups

Fights over police reform, COVID-19 delay Senate appropriations markups
© Greg Nash

The Senate Appropriations Committee is delaying the start of markups for funding the government in the next fiscal year over partisan disagreements on police reform and COVID-19 spending.

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, Democrats are eager to fund programs they say will promote racial justice. They also want to add funding to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

That disagreement is delaying the sides from reaching bipartisan consensus to mark up bills. Democrats are looking to offer amendments on the issues, which Republicans say are "poison pills."

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In recent years, the Senate has moved appropriations bills on agreement that they would be bipartisan while excluding controversial "poison pill" riders.

“Funding the government is a serious responsibility, and I will not allow the appropriations process to be hijacked and turned into a partisan sideshow," committee Chairman Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFinger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag MORE (R-Ala.) said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Vt.), the committee's top Democrat, said that offering amendments was a key concern for Democrats. 

"There is bipartisan agreement that we need to address the COVID-19 pandemic. And if we want to truly address the issues of racial injustice that George Floyd’s tragic death has brought to the surface, we need more than symbolism, we need to appropriate money for programs that advance these issues," said

A Senate GOP aide said that markup notices for the bills had been expected this week, but the disagreements made it impossible to forge bipartisan bills.

Republicans, the aide said, believe the issues should be addressed outside of the appropriations process, where Congress is already looking at both issues.

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The House passed a $3 trillion COVID-19 bill, which the Senate Republicans rejected as they favor taking a narrower approach. The two chambers are also advancing very different bills on police reform.

The House, in the meantime, is planning to mark up and pass all 12 bills by the end of July.

Congress has to pass 12 bills funding the government or pass a stopgap measure by the start of the 2021 fiscal year on October 1. If funding lapses, the government would shut down.