Finding Funding Alternatives

September 4, 1996

Finding Funding Alternatives

Even as the House and Senate struggle to pass fiscal 1997 funding measures, appropriators next week will begin work on an omnibus funding measure or continuing resolution in case all the bills are not completed by the end of the fiscal year, appropriations aides from both chambers said today. "We will continue to try to get the bills through" the process, a House Appropriations Committee aide said, adding panel aides next week will begin discussing the CR or omnibus measure. She said it is not clear what method will be used, noting a CR usually uses a common formula for funding programs, while an omnibus bill bundles already passed or pending bills.

So far, Congress has sent only one FY97 funding bill -- the Agriculture appropriations measure -- to the president, who has signed it. The Foreign Operations, Defense, Energy and Water, and Transportation appropriations measures remain in conference. The Defense bill has been stalled since House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Fla., has been recovering from heart bypass surgery. The Foreign Operations bill has been bogged down by complex negotiations involving funding for population control programs. The Interior, Commerce-Justice- State and Treasury-Postal bills are awaiting Senate action, as is the VA-HUD measure. The House has approved the Legislative Branch, Military Construction and District of Columbia appropriations conference reports, but the Senate has not acted on them. The Senate Labor- HHS Appropriations Subcommittee has not yet marked up its bill, but a Senate aide said he hopes the measure can be sent to the full Senate next week.

The Senate aide said he expects the House and Senate to be able to complete work on all the funding measures by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. However, he said it is uncertain whether both chambers can clear the conference reports in time. "Do we have the time to separately enroll these bills or do we bundle them?" the aide asked. An added uncertainty is whether President Clinton will veto any of the bills, the aide said. In addition, he said Senate leaders have not decided how to deal with a $1.3 billion outlay reserve fund that would become available if a motion is made to proceed to a CR.

The House aide said that, shortly before the August recess, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Livingston, R-La., Senate Appropriations Chairman Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta met to discuss the progress of the funding measures. "We strongly believe the president will sign a number of these bills," the House aide said, adding appropriators have kept the measures "relatively clear of controversial legislative provisions." The Senate aide said he expects the White House to become involved in negotiations "rather quickly," contending the White House will first want to see the Senate version of the Labor-HHS bill, which often is the most contentious funding measure.

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