Senate likely to punt on spending bills until November

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In February, a bipartisan group of senators congratulated each other on an agreement made among party leaders and top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The hope: to pass all 12 fiscal 2013 appropriations bills under regular order.

This week, Senate Democrats are acknowledging they will probably not pass any of the annual spending measures before the November elections.

Addressing reporters Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faulted House Republicans for drafting appropriations bills under an overall spending cap -- $1.028 trillion, lower than the $1.047 trillion level agreed on last year's Budget Control Act. "That makes it hard to do these appropriations bills," Reid said.

Asked if any appropriations bills will pass the Senate this year, Reid said they will not, not "until the Republicans get real."

Since House Republicans have no intention, until January, to adjust their spending cap, Reid's statement affirms the increasingly obvious. The Senate will not attempt any regular order appropriations this year. The chambers in September are expected to hammer out a continuing resolution that pumps a major budget fight into the lame duck session.

Senate Democrats have put fiscal year 2013 appropriations measures, potentially in combinations of three, dubbed minibuses, on their internal list of legislation that could reach the floor during the summer work period. But a Senate Democratic leadership aide, speaking privately, said none of the measures have a realistic chance of moving this summer, and are listed only to appease Senate appropriators urging they get floor time.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed 9 of 12 measures, with all but two winning bipartisan support.

In February, eight senators, including two Democrats, touted their intention to pass the bills this year. 

"There are many important reasons we should do that but basically it is our constitutional responsibility to do it, to appropriate money," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said at the time. "It is a time when we need to save every penny we can, and this is our best opportunity for oversight, and it's also good management and it would put the Senate doing what the Senate ought to do."

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