Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Thursday, November 7, 2019

Slow Progress on Appropriations as Deadline Looms; Appropriations Chairs Resume Talks to Break Budget Impasse

Though some signs have pointed to progress in recent weeks towards finishing fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, a final resolution remains elusive.

Last week, the Senate passed a four-bill minibus appropriations measure that included these bills: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (which includes the National Science Foundation); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (which includes the Department of Agriculture); Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The Senate passed the measure 84-9.

By passing at least one set of bills the Senate hoped to move the process forward, but the same political roadblocks remain. Most notably, the House and Senate have still not agreed on a set of allocations for the 12 appropriations bills. The reason for the impasse is the dispute over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The wall remains a high White House priority, and Democrats remain steadfastly opposed. The current Senate version of the Homeland Security appropriations bill would provide $5 billion in wall funding, monies that Democrats would allocate to other federal programs. Because of this stalemate, the Senate failed to advance a second minibus appropriations package last week that would have included Defense and Labor, Health, and Human Services (which includes the National Institutes of Health).

With the ongoing impeachment investigation and precious few legislative days before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires Nov. 21, congressional leaders are trying to avoid a government shutdown. On a more optimistic note, it appears that negotiations will resume in earnest between House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Both Lowey and Shelby have said they believe another CR will be needed to keep the government open past Nov. 21 and predict it could last well into 2020. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have expressed their desire for a CR that would last only until December, potentially giving Congress the opportunity to finish FY 2020 appropriations before year’s end.