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House Work on Spending Bills Slows Amid Leadership Turmoil

As Senate floor action on appropriations begins to pick up, House consideration may be slowing down.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected primary loss is impacting appropriations work in the chamber, slowing floor momentum and putting additional pressure on an already tight timetable for considering spending bills.

The chamber had been scheduled to work late into the night on Wednesday to complete consideration of the $20.9 billion agriculture appropriations measure (HR 4800), the fifth spending bill to hit the House floor this season, but work on it has now been put on hold, a senior aide said Thursday afternoon. The aide declined to comment on the reason.

But the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Sam Farr of California, said earlier that it appeared the $491 billion defense appropriations bill might be brought to the floor next week instead, because it would be easier to pass amid the turmoil currently roiling GOP leadership.

Appropriators have done their best to maintain a quick pace in recent weeks.

In a 12-hour span on Tuesday alone, House Appropriations panels had approved the $34 billion Energy-Water bill in subcommittee, marked up the Defense title, released report language for federal Homeland Security-related programs and managed floor debate for the Transportation-HUD measure (HR 4745), seeing it through to passage.

But a shrinking number of legislative days and a chokepoint at the floor could preclude House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., from reaching his goal of passing all 12 bills by the August recess.

“We’re working hard and moving ahead fast, but it’s going to be difficult to pass all 12 bills before the recess,” said Nita M. Lowey of New York, ranking Democrat on House Appropriations.

In order to speed consideration while still committing to an open amendment process, the Rules Committee for some of the spending bills put a time limit on debate for individual amendments, but the sheer number of provisions has slowed consideration.

“We’re still getting an awful lot of amendments and it’s taking a long time to do these bills, so that’s setting us back some,” said Mike Simpson of Idaho, a senior GOP appropriator, “But that’s what an open process is.”

For his part, Rogers said Tuesday the pace the House has been going is “on target,” and that reaching his goal of moving all 12 bills by August is still achievable.

Other appropriators, beginning to feel that a continuing resolution will be a likelihood for at least some spending bills, are suggesting that the committee instead turn inward in the weeks ahead. Some suggested that the panel focus on marking up the five remaining spending bills on the committee level in order to prepare them for a wrap-up omnibus that could be negotiated with the Senate after the November elections.

“I think what we’ll do is try to get them all marked up in committee,” Farr said. “We’ve only got a couple more weeks.”

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