The congressional showdown over 2020 spending is set to enter its next phase this week as House Democrats push ahead with a “minibus” package of five appropriations bills totaling nearly $1 trillion in discretionary spending.
The Democrats are moving ahead even as lawmakers have not yet reached a deal to raise budget caps and set top-line spending levels that would avoid steep, automatic cuts from taking effect.
The House package includes the two largest of 12 must-pass annual spending bills, those for Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. It also includes funding for energy and water, the State Department and foreign operations as well as money for the legislative branch.
The push by House Democrats to pass their funding bills represents an aggressive opening bid in a budget battle that has the two sides sharply divided over spending priorities, especially on domestic programs. The Democrats have proposed roughly $1.3 trillion in total discretionary spending for next year, including a $34 billion increase for programs such as health and education and a $17 billion boost for the military.
The House Rules Committee is set to take up the first minibus package on Monday evening, Roll Call reports, and will decide which of the hundreds of amendments submitted by members will come up for debate by the full House, with a vote there scheduled for Wednesday.
Among the contentious issues in the package is a potential pay raise for members of Congress. The spending package would allow a cost-of-living pay increase for the first time since 2009, giving lawmakers now earning $174,000 a year a $4,500 raise. But members in both parties have filed amendments to keep salaries frozen.
A final vote on the first minibus likely won’t happen until next week. The five-bill package is likely to be approved by House, but will likely have to change considerably before it can pass the Republican-controlled Senate and get White House approval.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says he wants to pass all 12 of the required appropriations bills for 2020 through the House by the end of the month, which would allow time for negotiations with the Senate on final spending levels before the start of the new fiscal year in October.
A second minibus package will include five appropriations bills totaling about $383 billion covering commerce, justice and science; agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration; interior, environment military construction and veterans affairs; and transportation and housing and urban development, according to The Hill.
Senate GOP Leaders to Discuss Spending Bills with White House
On the Senate side, Republican leaders will meet with White House officials on Tuesday afternoon to discuss stalled negotiations with Democrats over government funding bills for 2020, Politico’s Burgess Everett reports:
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama and other Republican appropriators will meet with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought on Tuesday afternoon, according to three people familiar with the matter.”
Everett adds that Senate Republicans “are trying to figure out whether they can begin moving spending bills absent a two-year spending agreement.”