Conference Committee Chairs Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) have met twice privately to negotiate since the most recent meeting of the conference committee on November 13, 2013. Despite these negotiations, no agreement was reached prior to Members of Congress departing for the Thanksgiving recess.
At this point, it seems certain that the committee will not reach an agreement on a topline discretionary spending level prior to December 2, 2013, the appropriators’ preferred date to reach an agreement in advance of the December 13, 2013 deadline. The longer it takes the conference committee to reach an agreement on a topline spending level, the more difficult it will be for appropriators to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that would fund the government and avoid another federal government shutdown.
In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged his House colleagues to stick to the $967 billion spending level outlined in the initial House FY 2014 Budget Resolution. Despite difficulty passing individual FY 2014 appropriations bills through the House at this low level this past year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he intends to introduce a full-year FY 2014 continuing resolution (CR), or stopgap funding measure, at this $967 billion topline spending level.
A number of House Republican appropriators, including Representative Tom Latham (R-IA), Chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, have recently indicated that although it will be difficult to pass appropriations bills at such a low discretionary spending level, they will be willing to agree to such a number if it becomes necessary to avoid another federal government shutdown mid-January.
Members of Congress departed for the Thanksgiving recess on Friday, November 22; the House is expected to reconvene on Monday, December 2, while the Senate is expected to reconvene the following Monday, Dec. 9. Therefore, upon their return, Members of Congress will have very few legislative days remaining prior to the December 13 deadline for the conference committee to reach an agreement on a topline discretionary spending level.