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House Appropriations Committee Showdown

It looks like the list of potential barriers to getting a budget approved by the end of the fiscal year (discussed in a recent GovWin blog post) keeps getting longer.

On the surface, the budget appropriations process may not be the most stimulating topic for a Friday morning, but when House Appropriations Committee meetings end in "chaos" as reported by Congressional Quarterly (CQ), my ears tend to perk up. According to the article, yesterday's committee meeting was abruptly adjourned, leaving three fiscal 2009 spending bills – Agriculture, Labor-HHS-Education, and Interior-Environment – in limbo.

Republican Jerry Lewis (CA) asked Committee chairman David Obey (D-WI) to bring up the Interior spending bill immediately after the July 4th recess. Obey declined and moved on, spurring Lewis to offer an amendment to essentially replace the Labor-HHS-Education bill's text with the Interior spending bill so it can be put up for vote. From there it goes downhill, with Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) offering an amendment to the amendment, until a motion was made to adjourn. End of meeting.

So what is so interesting about this Interior-Environment spending bill? Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa) proposed a modification to allow oil and gas exploration in offshore areas along the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf Coasts during a subcommittee meeting earlier this month. The general bill, which would provide $27.9 billion to Interior and EPA, was approved by the Interior-Environment subcommittee but the modification was not. Now that the appropriations bills are at the committee level, Rep. Lewis' apparently saw an opportunity for a second chance.

The good news is that the House Appropriations Committee has approved the following appropriations bills:

  • Commerce, Justice, Science
  • Energy and Water
  • Financial Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Military Construction and Veteran's Affairs
  • While this information gives us a sneak peek into how the appropriations magic happens, it also highlights how muddy the budget picture could become as we contemplate a potential Continuing Resolution for FY2009 and a current services baseline budget for FY2010. All of this adds to the level of uncertainty for contractors wondering what the future holds for their customers' budgets.

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