The four leaders of the appropriations committees, who for the first time are all women, have said from the start that they wanted to bring the 12 spending bills to the floor under “regular order” and avoid what has become an annual ritual where congressional leaders gather in their suites to cut a last-minute deal lumping hundreds of billions of dollars of spending into one take-it-or-leave-it package.
As part of the debt limit agreement, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, issued a statement pledging to “seek and facilitate floor consideration” of the spending bills.
Leaders have avoided floor fights over the spending bills in recent years because they are time-consuming and can force lawmakers to take politically charged votes. But the practice has left many lawmakers complaining that they are being left out of the most basic function of Congress, and the committee heads say they want to bring it to an end.
“What most of us are trying to avoid is a gigantic year-end omnibus that excludes a lot of the rank-and-file members from having input,” Ms. Collins said. “It would be healthy for the dynamic of the Senate, good for our country, and better for federal programs and agencies if we do our work on time.”
At the moment, completing the spending bills on a schedule that has not been met recently looms as a difficult goal to reach with the House and the Senate at odds from the start of the extended review of spending bills. But those in charge say they cannot surrender.
“If we all said, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything, there might be a potential train wreck,’ then why are we here?” Ms. Murray asked. “My job is to get my bills done, to do everything I can to get our bills through the Senate.”
The current turmoil, she said, may dissipate as the deadlines for action approach.
“I wouldn’t take the temperature of where we’re going to be in three months today,” Ms. Murray cautioned. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”