Inside the Senate

Sometime this week, the Senate will vote on a “minibus” (a collection of appropriations bills all bundled together) that is rumored to include a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government until December 16th (funding expires on Friday, again). This current minibus is in conference and includes the FY 2012 appropriations for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

The House passed these appropriations bills months ago, and included spending levels set by the House-passed Ryan budget. Unfortunately, the Senate versions include higher spending levels set by the August debt deal. The first CR – passed in September – also included these higher spending levels. The next one is expected to simply continue this level of spending – something conservatives oppose.

Although the details are not yet public, this CR is expected to include significant levels of disaster funding, which will bring total spending above what most people understood was part of the August debt deal level. It will also increase the conforming loan limits for the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) which is likely to be the next run-amok government entity to distort our housing market, just like Fannie and Freddie. These government entities are backed by taxpayer funds, and have already been given bailouts totaling $170 billion dollars of your money. If the FHA is allowed to join these ranks, that number could double or even triple.

Once the higher spending minibus with the CR attached is released from conference, the House will vote on the measure. Although conservatives in the House are frustrated by the elevated spending levels and numerous policy decisions, appropriators believe there will be significant Democrat support for the legislation and it will likely pass. Then the Democrat-led Senate will pass it, furthering their own record of not passing a real budget in over 900 days.

It’s shaping up to be a repeat of last spring, when appropriation measures for the current fiscal year were not complete until well after the start of the fiscal year.

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