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Appropriations and Policy Update

FY 2011 Appropriations

On December 1st, the House passed the second FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the Federal government until December 18th.  The House passed the first CR for FY 2011on September 30th and that legislation provided the authority to the Federal government to continue spending at last year’s level and under the same terms and conditions as last year until December 30th. The new continuing resolution will give members more time to reach agreement on funding for FY 2011. 

A 12 Chapter Omnibus Appropriations bill (one chapter for each of the appropriation subcommittees) has been negotiated at spending levels requested by the Republican leadership.   The Omnibus reflects all the detail, guidance and report language that was developed by the traditional process that began last January with the submission of the President’s request.  At this writing it also includes approximately 7,500 earmarks for special Member projects. Efforts continue in the Senate secure the 60 votes necessary to bring the Omnibus to the floor. If the votes can not be found in the Senate to proceed, another CR will be needed to keep the government in operation.  Many predict another CR that would extend spending authority to next February or March, or perhaps for the entire year.  David Obey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is on record as preferring a full year CR, but he will yield to the Senate if they can pass the Omnibus. The Republican leadership prefers to pass CR that would extend until February or March.  At that point, once they have control of the House, a CR would then be available as a must pass legislative vehicle for additional spending reductions, such as returning spending to FY 2008, a goal announced by the Republicans.

Continuing Resolutions have become increasingly common. In FY 2007 a CR was used for the entire year.  However, even in FY 2007 two of the appropriation bills, Defense and Homeland Security, were eventually passed as separate bills. Reaching back to FY 2002 there have been as many as 8 CRs needed in one year until permanent funding was provided.

On December 30 the Senate rejected a proposal by Senator Coburn to ban earmarks for the next three years. The vote was 56 no votes and 39 yea votes.  Interestingly 8 Republicans [Bennett (UT); Cochran (MS); Collins (ME); Inhofe (OK); Lugar (IN); Murkowski (AK); Shelby (AL); and Voinovich (OH)], all of which sit on the Appropriations Committee, voted against the ban.  Six democrats [Bayh (IN); Bennett (CO); Feingold (WI); McCaskill (MO); Nelson (FL); Udall (CO); and Warner (VA)] voted in favor of the ban. 

House Republicans have agreed on a one year voluntary ban on earmarks and the Republican leadership has pledged not to bring any legislation to the House floor that includes earmarks.  Earmarks represent approximately 0.3 % of the budget and if they are entirely eliminated no funds would be saved as the money would simply be used for other purposes. 

The 112th Congress: Who will chair the House appropriations Committee?

Campaigning by Republicans for the position of chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has been underway since before the election.  The current Ranking Member Jerry Lewis is seeking a waiver from the Republican Conference 6 year term-limit on Committee leadership positions in order to regain the chairmanship.  Also in the race are Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Jack Kingston from Georgia.  While all three of these members have a history of successfully using their positions on appropriations to win earmarks for their districts, each is campaigning on an anti-earmark/ small government platform. Nevertheless, Kingston brings a fresh face to the leadership position due to being 15 years younger than both Lewis and Rogers. 

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