Dec. 12, 2011 – 11:01 p.m.
Action on ‘Megabus’ Pushed Back
By Kerry Young and Frances Symes, CQ Staff>
The House may postpone final action on a nine-bill fiscal 2012 “megabus” until Dec. 15, the day before stopgap financing for the government expires, as unexplained delays barred the anticipated Monday completion of the measure.
House Appropriations Chairman
Appropriators seemed confident Monday night that the bill would be finished soon, but were less than certain about the timing. They have been working for weeks to assemble the measure, which will add eight overdue appropriations bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 to the conference agreement for the Military Construction-VA measure (
“We’ve got a broad agreement between the House and Senate. It’s bipartisan, bicameral. We’re doing the paperwork, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, and we will be able to file by tomorrow,” Rogers said.
His Democratic counterpart,
“There are a few things left that are still of concern, but it’s going to happen this week, I would predict,” Dicks said.
The hitch means the House must put off the expected adoption of the conference agreement because the chamber’s rules call for the text of bills to be available at least two calendar days before a vote.
That, in turn, will put pressure on the Senate to move quickly and might push final passage into the weekend.
The government has been operating under a continuing resolution that was part of a three-bill fiscal 2012 “minibus” appropriations package enacted last month (PL 112-55).
No Continuing Resolutions
The pending megabus will include yearlong appropriations for all nine regular spending bills that remain unfinished, Rogers said. His announcement ended speculation, fed by Rogers and other senior appropriators, that long-term continuing resolutions might be needed for one or more of the nine, including the bills that finance health, financial and environmental regulations.
Working through the weekend, House and Senate appropriators and Appropriations committee aides were able to hammer out compromises for the three most controversial bills in the package: Labor-HHS-Education (
“We’re coming into the homestretch,” said
Action on ‘Megabus’ Pushed Back
A senior Senate GOP appropriator offered another possible reason for the delay: an attempt to tie the megabus to an expected extension of the expiring Social Security payroll tax cut (
“We’ve got the appropriations package ready to go,” Murkowski said. “We thought that they would be able to post that and put it up, and I’m told it’s probably not going to happen now because of the payroll tax.”
Murkowski’s bill had been among the most contentious fiscal 2012 measures as Republicans pushed to use it to curb environmental regulations.
Appropriators declined to comment Monday on most specifics of the megabus conference decisions. That particularly included fights over provisions related to implementation of the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).
And among those most eager to see the text of the megabus — wanting to see whether policy riders and spending constraints might have survived the negotiations — were environmental activists and lobbyists and officials from many industries regulated by the EPA.
When asked if a provision that would pave the way for additional mountaintop mining remained a concern, Dicks paused and said, “It would be if it were in” the agreement. That suggested the mining provision might have been dropped.
One technical matter critical to meeting the House rule that bill language be made available for two days was the ability of the House Rules and House Appropriations committees to scan in hundreds of pages of the text. The committees have recently purchased new equipment to convert paper documents into a form for posting on the Rules website.
Once the document is available for scanning, the two new optical scanners at the Rules Committee may still require about two and a half hours to finish the job, an aide said.
Niels Lesniewski and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this story.