Applause Greets Passage of Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Rogers: Makes summer plans.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
Jan. 15, 2014, 2:20 p.m.

Cheers and ap­plause broke out be­hind the closed doors of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Wed­nes­day after the House passed a 12-part om­ni­bus spend­ing bill by a vote of 359-67, with an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity vote from both parties.

Com­mit­tee staffers worked through the hol­i­days to put to­geth­er the om­ni­bus bill, while most mem­bers were back in their dis­tricts. House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., said Wed­nes­day that the staff will have next week off. Call it a be­lated Christ­mas mir­acle.

“I think this por­tends well for the fu­ture,” Ro­gers said of the strong, bi­par­tis­an sup­port for the bill. “I think we’ll have a re­stored at­ti­tude on the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee about work­ing to­geth­er and the ne­ces­sity of do­ing that. This gets the train back on the track — reg­u­lar or­der — and gives us a chance now dur­ing this com­ing year to do things the right way, and that’s in­di­vidu­al bills.”

The le­gis­la­tion is also ex­pec­ted to pass the Sen­ate later this week.

Ro­gers feels that the House vote re­flects not just a re­newed in­terest in re­turn­ing to reg­u­lar or­der and up­hold­ing the Ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess, but a change in the mood of the House in gen­er­al to­ward great­er bi­par­tis­an­ship. “I really be­lieve that this has set a tone that will last, as we needed,” he said.

The bill comes on the heels of an­oth­er bi­par­tis­an agree­ment in the House over the Decem­ber budget deal between Rep. Paul Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray. In fact, the om­ni­bus earned a lar­ger ma­jor­ity than did the Decem­ber budget agree­ment, with 64 Re­pub­lic­ans and just three Demo­crats — Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Car­o­lina, Raul Gri­jalva of Ari­zona, and Rush Holt of New Jer­sey — op­pos­ing the meas­ure.

Like the Ry­an-Mur­ray bill, the om­ni­bus pack­age drew the over­whelm­ing op­pos­i­tion of con­ser­vat­ive spe­cial-in­terest groups. Both meas­ures earned the votes of a ma­jor­ity of House Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing many con­ser­vat­ive votes, a sign of the loosen­ing grip those out­side groups hold on the Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence.

Many of the Re­pub­lic­ans vot­ing nay also op­posed the Ry­an-Mur­ray budget deal, call­ing its $1.012 tril­lion spend­ing level too high.

Oddly, six of the con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers who op­posed the budget agree­ment last month voted in fa­vor of the om­ni­bus — which al­loc­ates those funds at the pro­gram and de­part­ment level. They are: Reps. Trey Gowdy and Mick Mul­vaney of South Car­o­lina, Andy Har­ris of Mary­land, Joe Heck of Nevada, Dav­id McKin­ley of West Vir­gin­ia, and Daniel Web­ster of Flor­ida.

Mul­vaney had said Tues­day that he would op­pose the om­ni­bus and pre­dicted that none of his fel­low nay votes on the budget agree­ment would sup­port the om­ni­bus either. “I’m vot­ing no for it, any­way,” he said then. “”¦ I don’t know how you voted no last month and would vote yes today.”

But Mul­vaney said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that he sup­por­ted the bill be­cause it cuts dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing — when ad­jus­ted for in­fla­tion — be­low 2008 levels, something he prom­ised his con­stitu­ents dur­ing his first cam­paign. His of­fice did not re­spond when asked for com­ment about the evol­u­tion in his stance between Tues­day and Wed­nes­day.

Mean­while, Heck said he was dis­ap­poin­ted that the om­ni­bus did not cut more spend­ing, but that he sup­por­ted the meas­ure be­cause it in­cludes a fix for pen­sion cuts to dis­abled vet­er­ans that were in­cluded in the ori­gin­al budget agree­ment.

The Wed­nes­day vote came just 44 hours after the massive 1,582-page om­ni­bus was re­leased Monday even­ing, giv­ing law­makers little time to read the bill be­fore it hit the House floor. Mem­bers and their staffs would have had to read more than 1.6 pages every minute, without sleep­ing, to have fin­ished read­ing the doc­u­ment ahead of Wed­nes­day’s vote.

Sen­at­ors will have a few more hours to look over the om­ni­bus, but not many. By an 86-14 vote Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate passed a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that will give the up­per cham­ber un­til mid­night Sat­urday night to pass the om­ni­bus be­fore the cur­rent fund­ing mech­an­ism ex­pires.

That vote could come as early as Thursday or as late as Sat­urday even­ing, de­pend­ing on wheth­er Re­pub­lic­ans in­sist on us­ing all of the de­bate time avail­able to them, ac­cord­ing to a seni­or Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide.

Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations rank­ing mem­ber Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Wed­nes­day be­fore the House vote that he ex­pects to see large, bi­par­tis­an sup­port for the om­ni­bus in the Sen­ate as well. “I think we’re go­ing to have a big vote. “¦ I be­lieve we’re go­ing to have a healthy num­ber. … I haven’t felt the crys­tal­liz­ing of a lot of op­pos­i­tion,” he said.

“We all would like to get out as soon as we could, if we could vote. But if oth­er people have oth­er ideas — you know, delay, delay” — then the pro­cess could drag out, Shelby said. He ad­ded, however, that he is hope­ful the om­ni­bus will pass the Sen­ate by Fri­day.

Once it clears the Sen­ate, the le­gis­la­tion will keep the gov­ern­ment fun­ded through the end of Septem­ber and pre­vent a shut­down this week­end. Af­fected de­part­ments and agen­cies will have to sub­tract their total spend­ing so far in fisc­al 2014 — which began on Oct. 1 — from the top-lines in the om­ni­bus, be­fore writ­ing their budgets for the re­mainder of the year.

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