WASHINGTON — Senior U.S. Senate appropriators signaled Thursday that their version of legislation to keep the government open beyond March 27 would include a full defense spending bill — and potentially other full agency funding measures.
“I’ve been talking with Sen. Mikulski about whether it’s possible to put more of the regular appropriations bills on it,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters Thursday, referring to panel Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
“We in the Senate have done our work on the appropriations bills, with one exception, and I don’t think it makes sense to throw that work out the window,” Collins said.
Asked whether a mini-omnibus or full omnibus — meaning a bill that would couple together multiple full-year agency spending bills into a single measure — could pass the House, Collins replied: “I don’t know whether it would or not.”
Minutes later, Mikulski happened upon the same group of reporters carrying a purple folder with a proposed plan for the Senate’s version of continuing resolution (CR) legislation. She was preparing to present it to her Democratic caucus.
The House on Wednesday passed its version of the legislation, a $982 billion measure that includes a full $518.1 billion Pentagon 2013 appropriations bill. The House measure also has attached full-year military construction and Department of Veterans Affairs funding bills.
“As you can see, I have a slim proposal,” Mikulski said, holding up the glossy folder.
The new Appropriations Committee chairwoman declined to discuss specifics until that presentation was complete. But she offered a window into the plan.
“We appreciate what the House did. We consider it a good first step. But it can’t be the only step. The [final CR] has to include some domestic bills ... that will present no major controversies that haven’t been vetted before.
“I understand: No poison pill riders. No cute little gimmicks,” Mikulski said.
She signaled the emerging Senate mini-omnibus would include a full 2013 defense appropriations act.
Mikulski said the upper chamber’s bill will focus on “good funding levels” that includes “meeting the needs of our national security.”
Several members of the deficit-reduction and spending-cut focused House GOP caucus said earlier this week that if the Senate sends back a mini-omnibus appropriations bill they would at least take a look and consider supporting it.
But, those GOP members made clear, it must abide by spending caps first set in 2011 and meet all requirements of the defense and domestic sequester cuts that were triggered last Friday.
If too many House Republicans reject the Senate bill, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, opts against allowing Democratic support to carry it to approval later this month, the government likely would shut down. The current CR expires March 27.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the Democratic-crafted plan as soon as next week.