The last train for FY18 is starting to leave the station and the scramble to get on board is in full display.
The leaders of both parties in each chamber are collectively making the final decisions on the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations bill and in their hands is the list of controversial policy provisions that are always negotiated at this highest levels. This list often includes fights to end federal funding for planned parenthood, environmental, healthcare, and campaign finance “riders.” The riders fight is a rite of passage for any appropriations bill, recall there was a time when the government almost shutdown because of the greater Sage-grouse.
The rider fight, while at times contentious, will be resolved. But there is more at stake than the policy riders. This is likely Congress’ last must-pass piece of legislation, but there is a difference between “must pass,” “should pass,” and “could pass.”
The “should pass” category is long and includes causes that have captured the nation’s attention, including gun safety legislation, protection for the Dreamers, and Puerto Rico disaster relief aide. These issues remain front and center for many Members and their constituents. It is highly unlikely that agreements on these can be reached by the time Congress unveils the Omnibus Appropriations bill as early as this week.
The “could pass” items are what is in play today. These provisions of legislation or whole bills could be hitched to the Omnibus Appropriations bill and have nothing to do with funding the government. In order to be included, they must have the support of the four leaders negotiating the final product. It is a race from all corners of Congress to add legislation to the agreement. More often than not, the answer is no.
However, this appropriations package, in addition to dramatic increases in spending, will include a fair share of proposals that Congress couldn’t pass any other way. The art of legislating is about finding compromise and a bill this significant will require votes from both sides of the aisle to find its way to the President’s desk.