Senate releases spending bills, setting up negotiations for December deal

Senate releases spending bills, setting up negotiations for December deal
© Greg Nash

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released drafts of all 12 annual spending bills for 2021, setting up negotiations for a deal ahead of the Dec. 11 deadline to keep the government running.

Bogged down in controversies over issues such as police reform and COVID-19 spending, the panel failed to release a single bill through regular order ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

The House advanced all 12 appropriations bills through committee and 10 of them across the House floor.


To avoid a shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap funding measure through Dec. 11. Following last week's election, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) said they wanted to reach agreement on all 12 bills and pass them in one fell swoop as an omnibus spending bill by year's end.

"By and large, these bills are the product of bipartisan cooperation among members of the committee," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year Incoming Congress looks more like America Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint MORE (R-Ala.) said on Tuesday.

"Time after time, we have demonstrated our willingness to work together and get the job done. We have before us the opportunity to deliver for the American people once again."

The committee's vice chairman, Democratic Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyIncoming Congress looks more like America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (Vt.) said he was disappointed that the bills would not go through the normal markup process, in which members of the Appropriations Committee and its 12 subcommittees can offer amendments, publicly discuss the bills and weigh in on policy issues.

Coronavirus-related funding remained a top concern, he said.


"This country is headed for a deadly winter and it is long past time for us to provide the resources the country needs to get this virus under control and our economy back open," he said.

"These bills do not provide any such relief."

Republicans have argued that COVID-19 relief is being addressed separately, in talks over emergency spending worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Indeed, the issue may become moot, as some have suggested that passage of a fifth, long-stalled COVID package may get wrapped up with the appropriations bills.

But other key differences remain between the partisan House bills and those the Senate released Tuesday.

Controversial issues will include provisions related to abortion restrictions, environment, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE's border wall, immigration enforcement policies and police reforms the House passed in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd summer, which led to widespread protests.