Senate Democrats are putting off plans to release the fiscal 2023 omnibus spending legislation on Monday, citing progress in bipartisan talks this weekend. Democratic appropriators were poised to release a partisan bill as part of an effort to push Republicans into negotiating an omnibus spending package, but talks with the GOP have advanced enough to make Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) change course. Top negotiators said they have been trading top-line numbers for a possible bill, but such a deal remains to be seen with Democrats and Republicans roughly $26 billion apart when it comes to overall spending. But with time running out, the prospect of appropriators breaking the impasse and passing an omnibus by the current deadline of December 16th is highly unlikely. Instead, negotiators expect that they will have to pass a short-term funding measure by Friday, which would keep the government running at current spending levels and give lawmakers more time to hash out a longer-term deal. A continuing resolution would likely stretch until December 23rd, giving negotiators another week to engage in talks while also upping the pressure by placing the deadline right before Christmas. But others think a deadline closer to December 31st, could be better. Democrats and most Republicans oppose forgoing an omnibus for a full-year stopgap measure lasting until September 30th, because among other negative outcomes, the Pentagon has warned a yearlong CR would leave it short of cash and threaten military operations and maintenance, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has said it could shortchange needed medical care funds, including for the new toxic exposure benefit law enacted this summer. However, a full-year CR remains on the table as a fallback, but with a twist that could make it more palatable: it would contain lawmakers’ earmarks secured in earlier versions of the fiscal 2023 appropriations bills.
The Senate must also take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which the House passed in a bipartisan 350-80 vote on Thursday The NDAA includes $847 billion for the Defense Department and also includes a 4.6 percent pay raise for service members and the agency’s civilian workforce, in addition to new weapons programs and equipment upgrades. However, numerous provisions were removed including provisions to accelerate the environmental review process for energy projects and approve the Mountain Valley pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who extracted a promise from Democratic leaders on permitting earlier this year, wants the chamber to vote on amendments to the NDAA this week. It’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will facilitate such a vote or whether the issue would delay final passage of the defense bill. Permitting talks could also bleed into the omnibus spending bill discussions.
The House convened at 12:00 P.M. and will consider the thirty-two bills listed for consideration under suspension of the Rules.