On Dec. 14, the Senate Appropriations committee released text of their spending bill for FY 2011. The omnibus bill, which ties together the twelve Appropriations subcommittee bills into one package, totals $1.108 trillion, less than President Obama’s budget request of $1.134 trillion, but higher than the $1.088 trillion that would be supplied by the year-long continuing resolution (CR) passed by the House of Representatives last week. Rather than holding departmental appropriations at FY 2010 levels (as the CR would do), the omnibus bill would increase the $31 billion budget of the National Institutes of Health by $750 million, while the National Science Foundation budget would increase from $6.9 billion to $7.34 billion.
While several Republicans, including Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), immediately denounced the legislation, Appropriations committee chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) defended the omnibus bill as representing “a far superior alternative to the Continuing Resolution” passed by the House. He continued, “I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people.”
Two major hurdles remain. The first is the Senate, where Sen. Inouye is attempting to round up the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Republicans have signaled their opposition to the bill, indicating their preference for a short-term CR that would pass the appropriations process on to 2011 for the new Congress to take up. The current temporary CR will expire on Dec. 18, requiring Congress to act this week to keep the government running. If the bill is able to pass the Senate, it will still need to be reconciled with the year-long House CR. News reports have suggested that House members would accept the higher funding levels found in the Senate bill.
Stay tuned to the Blotter for updates on the budget process!