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McConnell sets 'minibus' strategy for 2019 spending

McConnell sets 'minibus' strategy for 2019 spending
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he intends to pass spending bills for fiscal 2019 in groups of “minibuses,” marking a departure from the previous year's dysfunctional appropriations process.

The Kentucky Republican also set a goal of passing the first two appropriations bills on the Senate floor in June.

“It’s our hope that we’re not just marking these up in committee, but taking them to the floor and getting as close to a process that both sides will be comfortable with in the future,” he said.

Speaking at the Senate Appropriations Committee, McConnell said the strategy had been agreed to in consultation with Minority Leader Senator Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) the bipartisan leaders of the committee and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBottom line Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats MORE (R-Wis.).

The announcement came moments before the committee voted unanimously to approve 302(b) allocations, which break down the agreed $1.244 trillion in discretionary spending for 2019 into 12 individual bills.

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Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTrump, Pelosi barrel toward final border wall showdown On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds McConnell, Pelosi hunt for funding deal as shutdown deadline looms MORE (R-Ala.) has laid an aggressive schedule of marking up the bills in committee before the July 4th recess.

Senators failed to pass any fiscal 2018 appropriations on the floor until nearly six months after the new year began, when they were included an omnibus bill that combined all the bills.

Shelby on Thursday spoke out against an omnibus approach, in which many of the decisions are often made at the last minute by leadership and the White House.

“I think we all agree that’s no way to fund the government. I think it’s bad for the agencies, it’s bad for our constituents, it’s bad for the country,” he said.

The Senate bills, which will require bipartisan support to pass on the floor, are likely a closer indication of what the final spending package will look like than those passing in the House, where only a simple majority is required.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee McConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures MORE (D-Vt.), the panel's ranking member, praised Shelby for working cooperatively with Democrats on compromise bills, and jabbed the House for its more partisan approach.

“It’s in sharp contrast to [the] other body. They’ve taken a different path,” he said.