Uncertain Outlook for Completion of FY 2015 Spending Bills

The House and Senate have headed home for their five-week August recess. As previously reported, work on the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills stalled out earlier in the summer when Senate Democrats and Republicans could not come to agreement on a process for considering amendments. Senate Democrats have mentioned their interest in attempting an omnibus appropriations package when they return this fall. However, on the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has confirmed that the House will consider a continuing resolution (CR) upon return in September to keep the federal government operating into FY 2015, which begins on October 1. The CR could last until December, thereby bumping the appropriations process into the lame duck session following the November midterm elections.

To recap, the House and Senate made some progress in the FY 2015 process before leaving town this month. The House has passed seven of its 12 spending bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 4660) that includes funding for the National Science Foundation, Census Bureau, and other agencies. The Senate has not yet passed any of its 12 appropriations bills, though its version of the Commerce, Justice, Science bill (S. 2437) was on its way when it was pulled from the floor in June. Additionally, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, the bill that funds the National Institutes of Health and other HHS agencies, the Department of Education, and the Department of Labor, was advanced out of subcommittee but still awaits full committee consideration (see related article). Congress returns September 8 for a short, yet busy work period before heading home again for the elections.

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