by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lawmakers agreed to begin debate on a bill that would fund the nation’s massive defense budget as well as the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The legislation couples two major, unrelated appropriations bills in a “must-pass” package that lawmakers hope will end years of spending gridlock.
If the bill is approved later this month, it would be an historic moment for the Senate, which passed no spending bills on time in 2018 and has not passed a Labor, Health and Human Services bill on time in 15 years.
“Now we need to keep up the collaboration,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after lawmakers agreed to begin debate on the bill to overcome the first legislative hurdles. “There’s a reason why it’s been quite some time since we’ve completed a full, regular appropriations process.”
Lawmakers are hoping to avoid stalling the bill with partisan amendments that would prevent final passage. They have an informal agreement to avoid “poison pill” provisions that would draw opposition from either party, such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which has stalled past bills.
The two parties took a step toward avoiding the usual clashes by negotiating an agreement on which amendments should get a vote.