Kill this bill and it might be the last appropriations bill the Senate votes on for a very long time. That was the warning issued Monday evening by Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby, R-Ala. — and it worked.
The upper chamber, by a 63-35 vote, narrowly voted to end debate on its version of a $982 billion continuing spending resolution that features a full 2013 Pentagon appropriations bill and several other agency spending measures.
The bill just cleared the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate, with a handful of Republican senators — including Shelby — voting with the chamber’s Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has yet to announce when the chamber will hold a final up-or-down vote. But whenever it happens, it appears the Senate’s CR and the attached 2013 $518.1 billion Pentagon appropriations bill will pass.
Pentagon officials and industry executives are supportive of something passing that averts a government shutdown. They are even more supportive of the notion of a full-year DoD appropriations bill because the measure would give the Pentagon more flexibility than another CR.
For instance, DoD officials will be able to transfer funds among accounts, which lawmakers and defense officials say will allow them to partially — but not close to completely — blunt the hard blow sequestration will take from the Pentagon budget in 2013: $46 billion.
“For that amount of money, the last seven months, they’ll still have reprogramming authority for [the remainder] of 2013,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters last Thursday.
Once passed by the Senate, the CR, which essentially is a mini-omnibus spending measure, will go back to the House where it originated. The original House-crafted version featured the same Defense Department, Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction spending bills attached to the Senate version.
SAC Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Shelby opted to attach several other measures — but only ones that had made it out of the full Senate Appropriations Committee and had been “pre-conferenced” by House and Senate appropriators and staffers.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said late last week of the Senate measure: “So far, so good.”
There were no major changes made to the upper chamber’s bill after Boehner’s remark to reporters — but rank-and-file House GOP members largely have not weighed in on the Senate’s mini-omnibus approach.
Reid, Mikulski and Shelby all expressed frustration with senators of both parties for being unwilling to yield or work with other members offering similar amendments.
The result was tens of amendments did not receive a vote on the floor, casting doubt about the effort to return to “regular order,” meaning the practice of bringing appropriations bills to a floor vote.
Reid said Mikulski and Shelby “gave up things ... for their states,” sacrifices their colleagues refused to do.
The current CR expires March 27. Both the House-passed and Senate versions of the CR would fund Pentagon and government operations through Sept. 30.