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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.

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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 McConnellWashington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiIncreasingly active younger voters liberalize US electorate Sunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez 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 ShelbyBiden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Republicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks 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 LeahyHouse Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Biden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap 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.

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"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 TrumpSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Navajo Nation president on Arizona's new voting restrictions: An 'assault' on our rights The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez 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.