November 26, 2019(1)

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Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations But Concerns Remain

On Saturday, Appropriations leaders reached agreement on totals for each of the 12 FY 2020 funding bills, paving the way for Congress to pass as many of those bills as possible in the next four weeks.  The 12 bill allocations, known as the “302(b)” levels, have not been made public but we expect that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will get a boost above the effective 1% increase that the Senate Appropriations Committee had originally approved this fall but well below the 6.6% ($11.8 billion) increase in the House bill passed this spring. 

However, there is concern with how the bills will move forward before December 20th. There could be a “minibus’ where a few bills are packaged together and voted on as a group. Last year, the Defense and the Labor-HHS-Education bills were packaged together and enacted before the start of FY 2019, which meant those programs were not directly affected when much of the rest of the government shut down when their funding bills were not enacted or extended.  That scenario could happen again, although some Members of Congress may worry that passing the two biggest bills leaves less urgency to pass the remaining 10 bills.

Another option is that some bills are passed, but agreement on others is stymied; this has happened when Congress couldn’t agree on funding for key programs but didn’t want to hold up the rest of the bills. Another scenario is that not all bills are finalized by December 20, requiring another CR. The impeachment inquiry brings up a number of obstacles to the appropriations process, including the time it takes and the rancor it causes.  If the House is voting on articles of impeachment at about the same time it is scheduled to vote on appropriations bills, the process could stall for many reasons. 


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