The House has departed for the rest of the summer and will return the day after Labor Day. The Senate continues to work, including votes on appropriations at least through this week. To this point both houses have approved one “minibus” appropriations that combines three bills: Energy and Water-Legislative Branch-Military Construction. That would leave nine more to go. The Senate is expected to finish debate and vote on another minibus this week: H.R. 6147 that includes Agriculture, S. 2976, Financial Services, S. 3107 Interior-Environment, S. 3073), and Transportation-HUD, S. 3023.
The House left with an unclear understanding of whether there is a Republican strategy that would lead to a bipartisan deal and prevent a government shutdown before the election. The deal would allow for Congress to finish on everything but Homeland Security with that left until after the election. That would mean the fight over funding for the President’s wall would wait until November. In the meantime, Congress would cut a deal on everything else and the President would sign the bills and avoid that pre-election government shutdown as the President has on occasion suggested.
To reach the deal there would have to be a good faith agreement on key funding including HHS and both sides would have to keep out “poison pill” amendments like the Aderholt amendment. As part of this the Senate may take up this week, or in the next August stretch, a bill that would be a debate over a combined Labor-HHS-Education with Defense spending. That means there would have to be a lot of trust with Democrats leery that they would have a more different conference committee negotiations with House Republicans. The appeal would be that Democrats could lock down key priorities in HHS and Education while conservatives would get another Defense budget increase.
There are a lot of reasons such a plan could fail: the President could blow it up, Democrats might get nervous about what gets put into the Labor-HHS-Education budgets, one side or the other may feel the need to get something objectional passed to energize the base or stop something from passing to energize the base.