The House plans to pass its fiscal 2021 appropriations bills before leaving town for the August recess, according to Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer — even if it means that recess is delayed.
In order to meet that timeline, the Maryland Democrat wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter Friday he expects the House Appropriations Committee will start marking up the 12 bills in subcommittee and full committee "at the end of June and beginning of July."
Hoyer wrote that floor debate is expected to begin early and last late into the night so lawmakers can ensure they keep their distance while debating spending bills and other "must-pass" items. Those include the defense authorization bill, a water projects bill, an infrastructure package, legislation to "strengthen and expand" the 2010 health care law, and possibly additional COVID-19 response bills.
The updated House calendar Hoyer released Friday has the August recess scheduled to begin after votes July 31, and run through Labor Day. That's despite speculation that the annual August break — even more coveted in election years like this one — would be curtailed because of how much time lawmakers have spent home in their districts due to the pandemic.
But Hoyer made clear that recess could get pushed back if legislative business isn't finished.
"If the House is able to complete its work on these items by the end of July, no changes will be made to the August District Work Period, barring, of course, any additional measures that need to be taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote.
The House Appropriations Committee has not released its markup schedule yet, though key committee members said this week they expected the committee would complete its work by the end of July.
That will require a quick turnaround for appropriators and staff who will need to draft, mark up and manage floor debate on a dozen bills containing nearly $1.4 trillion in federal spending. Key panel members are also expected to play a role in negotiations on the next COVID-19 aid package that could be released sometime during the next several weeks.
The Senate Appropriations Committee hasn't released its markup schedule for the fiscal 2021 process, though chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said last week he hopes to begin marking up bills the third week in June.