Omnibus spending bill not likely until after recess

Consideration of the economic stimulus package has delayed the catch-all appropriations bill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that he expects the omnibus appropriations package containing the nine remaining fiscal 2009 appropriations bills to be completed after Congress returns from the Presidents Day recess late this month.

"My expectation is that we will complete the omnibus prior to the 6th [of March] and in the two weeks after we come back," Hoyer said at a briefing.

The measure had been scheduled for a House vote Wednesday but was delayed as lawmakers focused on the economic stimulus package now working its way through the Senate.

Democratic leaders plan to complete the stimulus bill by the end of next week. Most federal programs are being funded through a continuing resolution, approved in September, which expires March 6.

Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana urged House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and the Democratic leadership to make the bill publicly available despite the delay in floor action.

The CR includes three fiscal 2009 spending bills -- Defense, Military Construction-VA and Homeland Security -- that cover the entire fiscal year but funds most remaining programs at fiscal 2008 levels. Republicans have complained that some parts of the measure did not go through regular order in the House.

The fiscally conservative Blue Dog and moderate New Democrats are voicing similar complaints about the lack of regular order on major bills. A letter to Hoyer circulating among members of both groups details complaints about House leaders bringing major spending measures directly to the House floor and the negative impact that has had on lawmakers' contributions and bipartisanship, according to Caucus sources.

When asked about the complaints from within his Caucus, Hoyer said he agrees that regular order should be a goal. "I think that is a very important pursuit," Hoyer said. "Our committees and Members are served on both sides of the aisle by pursuing regular order. Regular order gives to everybody the opportunity to participate in the process in a fashion which will affect, in my opinion, the most consensus and best product."

Andy Leonatti contributed to this report.