Appropriator outlines fast pace for remaining spending bills

Anticipated debates over a new farm bill and reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program will compete for time with the spending measures.

The House is entering its busiest appropriations period thus far, attempting to jam through the remaining six fiscal 2008 spending bills before the August recess, although leadership aides acknowledged that schedule could slip.

Competing for time with the appropriations bills are anticipated debates over a new farm bill and reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program. And some of the most earmark-laden spending bills are coming to the floor next week, giving members of the conservative Republican Study Committee a chance to drag out debate by pinpointing numerous member projects for elimination, as well as challenging overall spending levels.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., laid out the ambitious schedule for panel members Wednesday, noting that it would be a "very difficult" period. Next week the House is expected to finish considering a $31.6 billion fiscal 2008 Energy and Water bill, once the House Appropriations Committee inserts the bill's earmarks Thursday.

The chamber will also consider the $153.7 billion Labor-Health and Human Services measure, which was approved on a voice vote Wednesday by the committee. The following week the House would take up the $53.6 billion Commerce-Justice-Science bill, to be marked up Thursday, as well as the $104.4 billion Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bill, which the Appropriations Committee was considering at presstime.

During the final week of July the House would take up the massive $459.3 billion Defense appropriations bill and an $18.8 billion Agriculture bill, which subcommittees will take up Thursday.

President Bush is threatening to veto all of the spending bills scheduled for the floor this month since most except the Defense bill exceed his requests. Democrats shifted funds in that bill to help pay for domestic priorities.

Republicans will no doubt hammer the Democrats for overshooting Bush's budget requests while deficit estimates are coming down, including the White House's own figure of a $205 billion deficit for this year, released Wednesday. That is $39 billion below its February estimate, and would be $43 billion below last year's total.