CQ Today reports that Senate and House appropriations panel aides have completed an informal conference of the fiscal 2011 Defense spending bill. The agreement is set to be included in a Senate omnibus proposal that Senate Democrats hope to pass as early as next week. At the same time, Democratic appropriators are hard at work on Plan B: a long-term continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through the entire fiscal year.
At this point nothing is certain. Senate Republicans oppose an omnibus and could block the proposal, and in that case, even a yearlong CR is not assured. In the end, Congress could choose to pass a short-term CR and defer any decisions to the next Congress, effectively wiping the slate clean and throwing out any progress that was made this year.
Another approach, supported by Susan Collins of Maine, would be to pass a “minibus,” that covers only the bills dealing with the Defense Department, veterans’ programs and Homeland Security. Collins said yesterday that she opposes bringing an omnibus to the Senate floor. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said that he opposes the omnibus approach, but Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye said Tuesday that the chances of securing GOP support for the omnibus are “beginning to look good.”
Whatever the case, the current CR is set to expire December 3, so the House is reportedly preparing to vote this week on a second CR that will fund the government through December 17. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.