The House began their debate on a package of four of the twelve appropriations bills on Wednesday. At the same time the Senate was signaling difficulty in starting their process as negotiations between Republican leaders and the White House seemed to slow down.
The House bundled four bills together after taking the Legislative Branch bill off the table due to a salary debate. The House Rules Committee approved debates and votes on 115 amendments with approximately 75 targeting the Labor-HHS-Education part of the appropriations package. The House leadership still seeks to pass all 12 appropriations bills by the July 4th break but there were suggestions by some Democrats that the Homeland Security bill will not make to the floor for a debate. It was voted out of the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 29-20 along party lines. The minibus approved by the House this week included the Labor-HHS-Education, Defense, Energy-Water, and State-Foreign Operations into one vehicle.
On the Senate side direction was less clear. Earlier in the week, there have been public reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not pleased with some of his Administration counterparts in the negotiations including the acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought. The White House is taking a hard line on spending and the need to raise the debt ceiling.
The Senate, in years past, would also be acting on approximately half of the twelve appropriations bills by July 4, to cue them up for conference committee meetings but the Senate has not yet started. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) is already agitating, as he did last year, to cut the August break to address appropriations. His comments come even though there is still a month and a half for Senators to start the process.
The Congress will also have to raise the debt ceiling at some point in late summer early fall. The White House seems to be seeking a “clean” increase with nothing attached. That is unlikely since congressional leaders are seeking a new budget agreement to raise the current budget caps. If the caps are not raised it would cause cuts of over $100 billion in the approximate $1.1 trillion in appropriations. Approximately half would come from the Defense Department. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised it would cause a default in debt payments which would affect many federal programs.