Deadline looming for stopgap spending bill with important decisions still to be made

With a month to go before stopgap spending runs out, Congressional leaders must resolve a number of issues before Congress can wrap up the Fiscal Year 2012 budget cycle.  Appropriators are waiting for leaders to decide how to divide the $1.043 trillion in discretionary funds allocated for the 12 annual spending bills set by the Budget Control Act.  House and Senate leaders also will have to devise a legislative strategy for clearing a spending law.  The two likeliest options are packaging small groups of bills into what are called “minibus” measures or writing one catchall omnibus bill. That decision could depend on how well the Senate handles its three-bill minibus this week, one of which is the Transportation-HUD spending bill that includes funding for disability related housing and transportation programs.

Appropriators hope to finish work by Nov. 18, both to avoid another stopgap continuing resolution and to beat the deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to issue its recommendations. However, a November finish is very ambitious as the House has passed six of its 12 bills while the Senate so far has passed only one.  In addition, larger ideological issues are likely to complicate the process for some bills, particularly the Labor, HHS, and Education funding bill which funds the majority of disability-related discretionary programs.  A draft House version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill would block funding for the health care reform law, which would be unacceptable to Democrats.

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