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House panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021

House panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021
© Greg Nash

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday finished marking up the last of 12 spending bills for fiscal 2021, wrapping up a lightning-fast push to get the bills to the House floor.

In just 10 days, the committee and its subcommittees held 24 markups, as each of the dozen bills were approved in their respective subcommittee and the full committee.

A committee aide said the timeline may have set a record, and was "certainly the fastest in anyone's memory."

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While most of the bills are expected to sail through the House, there are significant obstacles ahead, and questions as to whether any of them will be signed into law by the time the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package Key Democrat unveils plan to restore limited earmarks MORE (D-Md.) said the first package of four bills would get floor time at the end of next week. The package would combine the State & Foreign Operations, Military Construction & Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Interior & Environment spending bills.

The remainder of the bills are likely to be packaged together the following week, save Homeland Security, which like last year is not expected to get a floor vote.

The controversial Homeland Security bill deals with immigration issues, and is seen as too divisive even within the Democratic party to pass, given that the bills are not expected to receive any GOP support.

The Senate has hit a major roadblock in its own appropriations process, and has failed to release or mark up any spending bills.

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Democrats, led by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFirst Black secretary of Senate sworn in Press: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote MORE (D-Vt.), have insisted on a process that would allow them to introduce amendments on emergency spending for COVID-19 and police reform, both issues addressed in the House bills.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBlack Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (R-Ala.) has balked, saying such a move breached previous agreements on how to proceed on a bipartisan deal.

With the November election looming, Congress is increasingly likely to simply adopt a continuing resolution, which would prevent a shutdown by keeping current funding levels in place into the new fiscal year.

The question is whether Congress would punt into the lame duck session, aiming for a pre-Christmas vote, or wait until the new Congress is seated, which could see a change in Washington's balance of power.

The conclusion of the House markups on Wednesday represented something of a swan song for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), the first woman to chair the committee, who is retiring at the end of the year after 30 years in Congress and two years leading the panel. Lowey will still shepherd the bills through their passage on the House floor.

"It has been the honor of my life to serve as chairwoman of this committee," Lowey said Wednesday.

"While I’ll be sad to hand over the gavel, I know that all of us – members and staff - will live by the underlying principle that has guided our work together: do the best we can to make life better for the most people we can," she added.