Senate negotiators aim to unveil government funding bills by end of July

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Senate negotiators plan to unveil their annual government appropriations bills by the end of the month as lawmakers work to reach a broader bipartisan agreement on how to fund the government amid disagreements over the defense spending.

A spokesperson for the Senate Appropriations Committee confirmed in a statement Tuesday that appropriation officials are working on funding legislation “to be released in late July” as Congress is expected to enter a period nearly a month of state work beginning in early August.

The news comes as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is still recovering from hip replacement surgery after falling at home during the July 4 holiday.

“The chairman continues to work closely with his subcommittee chairs and his staff to complete the work of the committee during his recovery,” Jay Tilton, press secretary for the Senate Majority Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday.

The House is already gearing up to begin voting on its first batch of fiscal year 2023 funding bills in the coming days after lower house appropriations officials spent the last month scoring more than a trillion dollar spending bill and getting it out of committee.

While negotiators on the Senate side say they have also been working on drafting legislation, some have expressed frustration with progress in the upper house.

“We should have a committee of the whole, subcommittee hearings, bumps, but we’re not right now,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. on state, foreign operations and related programs. The Hill Tuesday. “There is no agreement on a topline, and that’s a shame. It’s a missed opportunity.

Appropriation officials have pointed to disagreements over defense spending as one of the biggest hurdles for the two sides to reach an agreement on overall revenue as they iron out allocations for government offices for the next exercise.

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee passed its own version of the fiscal year 2023 defense bill that called for total funding of about $761.7 billion, an amount up from 32, $2 billion from the current fiscal year, which is also what President Biden asked for in his budget. request earlier this year.

However, Republicans balked at the figure, saying more is needed to parity defense and other spending increases, while also citing rising inflation as the reason for the higher dollar amount.

“It’s not the only hurdle, but it’s a big hurdle,” Sen. Richard Shelby (Alabama), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill on Tuesday. Instead, he pointed to the recent version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which called for a $45 billion increase over the $45 billion request for defense. defense of Biden, as “a good step in the right direction”.

“It’s not enough. But it’s a good step,” Shelby said.

In the absence of a front-running deal, some negotiators say they worked across the aisle to produce text somewhat close to what the final version might look like.

“I spoke to my subcommittee chair this morning, and we have a good working relationship, and we will try to produce the bill as reasonably close to what we would have produced in a regular subcommittee order. “, said Coons.

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the Republican lead on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, told The Hill that the legislation could “at least “provide” a framework to work on when you are ready to produce a result.

But, he added, not having a top line “makes it unlikely that any of those efforts will yet produce a result.”

Lawmakers currently have until the end of September, when current government funding is due to expire, to pass the 12 annual appropriation bills.

But negotiators say they are already considering a continuing resolution, which will allow the government to remain temporarily funded at previous year’s budget levels, to push back the deadline as key lawmakers work to finalize a deal.

Last year, Congress passed three rolling resolutions to avoid a shutdown before passing a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package for fiscal year 2022 in March.

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