November 2, 2011
Actions are being taken by both the Senate and the House to move the (FY) 2012 “minibus” appropriations packages forward. An article published today in Informa Economics Issues Monitor reads:
Senate passage of one of at least two Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 “minibus” appropriations packages has set up the first conference committee on a spending measure in two years, with the first session likely as soon as Thursday, with the conclusion likely coming in two weeks. The measure will likely include a stopgap spending extension because the current continuing resolution (CR) expires Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, House Democrats and the Obama administration warned Republicans against attaching controversial policy riders to FY 2012 spending bills. House Democrats sent a letter Tuesday to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), asking Republicans to “live up to their pledge to not use must-pass legislation to advance a partisan agenda” by barring controversial policy provisions from FY 2012 spending bills. “While not all policy riders are objectionable,” they wrote, “many of those included this year are not only controversial but blatantly partisan.” The group, which included Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and 182 others, warned about riders that would block implementing the 2010 health care overhaul, roll back clean air and water protections and limit access to abortions. House Republican appropriators attached several riders on those and other issues to their versions of spending bills, but their fate is unclear in conference negotiations with the Democratic Senate. Link to Democratic letter.
The spending measure (HR 2112), which passed 69-30 on Tuesday, combines Senate versions of the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science (S 1572) and Transportation-HUD (S 1596) spending bills. The package would provide a total of about $128 billion in discretionary appropriations for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, not including emergency disaster aid.
The Senate is expected today to confirm it will turn to a second minibus as soon as Thursday. That package is expected to combine the Energy-Water (HR 2354), Financial Services (S 1573) and State-Foreign Operations (S 1601) measures. But including the State-Foreign Operations bill is murky as the Obama administration urged the Senate to leave it out. If so, leaders could add the Homeland Security (HR 2017) bill instead.
Regarding agriculture riders, in the Senate, Maine Republican Susan Collins won an amendment to block USDA from setting standards that limit the frequency with which white potatoes and other starchy vegetables are served in school lunches. The House bill has more general language that “urges restraint and practical timelines for implementing” school meal standards, and directs the department to issue a rule that would not increase the cost of providing school meals.
The Senate also adopted an amendment by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn that would bar farmers with incomes exceeding $1 million from receiving subsidies under the direct payment program. That program links payments to a farm’s past production levels and are paid out regardless of market conditions. Similar efforts to add restrictions on the program fell short in the House.
The House bill includes language that would block a FY 2012 payment to Brazil’s cotton industry agreed to as part of a settlement of a trade dispute. Farm-state lawmakers said the issue would be better addressed in the next farm bill. The Senate bill does not include similar language.