House Vote Highlights Difficulties on Spending Bills

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Lawmakers continued to struggle with 2017 spending legislation before their Memorial Day recess began, with the House last week overwhelmingly rejecting a measure for energy and water programs that GOP leaders had supported.

Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for derailing the bill, which lost on a 112-305 vote. Democrats objected to conservative policy riders, while some Republicans opposed an amendment to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

Each year Congress is supposed to pass a dozen appropriations measures to fund much of the government, but the regular budget process has frequently broken down in recent years.

Republican leaders have put a high priority on returning to “regular order” on appropriations, but last week’s House vote did not bode well for that. In addition, Congress has still failed to pass an overdue budget resolution that could serve as a spending framework for Fiscal 2017 and beyond.

Also last week, the Senate delayed debate on the annual defense policy bill after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment authorizing an additional $18 billion to be funnelled through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. That account is supposed to directly support war activities but is often misused to circumvent defense spending caps.

However, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a spending bill that does not increase funding in that account.

External links:
A Misguided Approach to Defense Funding (Concord Coalition)
Appropriations 101 (Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)

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