Finance

Chief appropriators meet to begin annual spending talks

Congressional negotiators on Thursday kicked off spending talks for government funding for the coming year, with sights set on finishing up work by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, ahead of the midterm elections.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was hopeful as he emerged from his first official round of closed-door negotiations for fiscal 2023 with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

“I am certainly more optimistic about the whole process than I was last year at this time,” Leahy told reporters after the meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Leahy said he anticipates having topline numbers for funding in the coming weeks, while also reiterating hopes that lawmakers can work across the aisle to put a sizable dent in tying up some of the 12 annual appropriation bills by the Sept. 30 deadline, when fiscal 2022 ends.

“The ideal would be, of course, if we did it before the August recess. If that’s possible, I don’t know,” Leahy said, adding he wants negotiators to have “a clean slate” at the start of next year, after midterm elections roll around in November.

With Leahy and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the panel’s ranking member, set to retire this year, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are in line to succeed the pair, which would mark the first time in history women sat at the helm of the powerful panel.

Shelby also seemed to express optimism after the meeting, telling reporters he thinks negotiators are heading into talks with a “mental framework.” 

“We showed what we did together and maybe we can replicate it,” he said.

The meeting comes after Congress passed a sprawling $1.5 trillion spending omnibus package in March, capping off months of bruising partisan negotiations over how the government should be funded for fiscal 2022, which began last October.

Congress had to pass three continuing resolutions, allowing the government to remain funded at the previous year’s fiscal levels, in order to buy time for lawmakers to hash out debates over issues like defense and nondefense spending, border wall funding and controversial riders in areas such as abortion and marijuana.

Shelby and Leahy said Thursday that negotiators didn’t get to the discussion of legislative riders in this round of talks, but the chairman added, “Those are always taken care of one way or the other.”

Though Congress has a reputation for passing its annual appropriations bills past the September deadline, Leahy said ahead of the meeting that he thinks there’s a “strong wish” to get “most” of the annual appropriations bills done by the cutoff date, as midterm elections put pressure on negotiators to finish in time. 

“I think everybody would be pleased to come in on Jan. 3 and know you’ve got a clean slate and you start preparing for the next year,” Leahy said.

Tags Appropriations Budget Patrick Leahy Patrick Leahy Patty Murray Richard Shelby Richard Shelby Shutdown
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