The Republicans in Congress held their annual retreat in Baltimore late last week in an effort to plot out their strategy for 2016.  There is a desire to focus on trying to pass each of the 12 appropriations bills on time by October 1. That is something that has not happened since 1994 when there were 13 bills. The House leadership hopes to complete a budget resolution by the end of February but it is not clear if the Senate will even act on a resolution.  That could result in some more challenging negotiations between the houses but would not prevent a budget since there is already an agreement worked out last year that has settled the level of spending for FY 2017.

Republican senators have also been talking about ways to restrict the filibuster particularly as it applies to appropriations bills but they have not been able to reach any consensus and changes seem unlikely.  In turn that could affect Senate ability to move appropriations in an efficient way.  Time will be essential because both houses will be out of session by July 15 and not return until after Labor Day leaving the remainder of September to complete action.  That will be tight.  When appropriations were moving in an efficient way, the House would have all bills out of the Appropriations Committee by July 4.  They would also have all but a few of the 12 bills (HHS being one of the last) passed and sent to the Senate by the Labor Day break that started in August.

As part of the Republican retreat there was discussion on how leadership could set out their own agenda separate from what happens in the presidential campaign.  Speaker Ryan (R-WS) has indicated a desire to unveil a Republican agenda but timing is unclear and action unlikely.