This week the Senate passed the FY2016 Military Construction(MilCon)/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill by a vote of 93-0. The House passed its version of the bill in April.
The bill provides $80 billion for FY2016 MilCon/VA discretionary appropriations, over $2 billion more than the bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in May and $1 billion higher than the president's request.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC), commending the bipartisan work of the committee and the full Senate, said the bill “is the first stand-alone appropriations measure amended, debated,and passed in the Senate since 2001. This year also marks the first time since 2009 that all 12 appropriations bills were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.”
This is the first FY2016 appropriations bill to pass in the Senate and also in both the House and Senate. The House has passed six FY 2016 appropriations bills but, until now, Senate Democrats have kept appropriations bills from coming to a vote on the Senate floor through procedural means. Last week they blocked consideration of the FY2016 Department of Defense Appropriations bill.
However, after a budget agreement was reached last month Senate Democrats now appear ready to move forward on FY2016 appropriations. However, because of concerns over possible policy riders (such as defunding Planned Parenthood) proposed by Republicans on separate appropriations bills, Democrats want to put all 12 appropriations in one omnibus appropriations bill. They supported the FY2016 MilCon/VA bill as a possible vehicle for such an omnibus bill.
Congress returns from the Veteran's Day recess next week with four weeks remaining until the Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government expires (December 11). The question is: Can Republicans and Democrats agree on an omnibus appropriations bill in that time or will another CR be needed to provide time to reach agreement? Or will we be brought to the brink of government shutdown once again?