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 McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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 Shelby (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 Leahy (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 Trump’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.

Tags Donald Trump government funding Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Omnibus spending bill Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby Senate Appropriations Committee stopgap funding

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