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TWO OMNIBUS BILLS AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE?: Final Vote on Education Appropriations Bill Could Come Before Christmas

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“It is my hope that before [December 18] we will have provision for the passage of all seven of the appropriations bills … which may be difficult because the Senate has not passed three of those bills on its floor.”

With only five of the twelve annual appropriations bills signed into law by President Obama and the debate on health care overhaul occupying much of the floor time in the U.S. Senate, Congressional leaders are mulling options on how to finish work on the seven remaining appropriations bills before the stopgap continuing resolution expires December 18.

One option currently under consideration is two separate omnibus bills. The first would consist of six appropriations bills, including the one funding the U.S. Department of Education, possibly some jobs-related items, and an extension of expiring provisions in the Patriot Act. The second would include the defense appropriations bill and possibly legislation on estate taxes, and a one-year “fix” to prevent a cut in Medicare payments to physicians.

On December 3, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that he hopes the U.S. House of Representatives can adjourn for the year by December 18. “It is my hope that before [December 18] we will have provision for the passage of all seven of the appropriations bills … which may be difficult because the Senate has not passed three of those bills on its floor,” Hoyer said. “In one form or another we will have all seven of those bills passed prior to the 18th. [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)], and I all want to avoid another continuing resolution, which we think is not the best way to move forward. We are hopeful that we can accomplish that.”

Earlier this year, on July 24, the House passed its version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Labor, Heath and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill. While the bill has yet to reach the Senate floor, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill on July 30.

Under the House-passed bill, the U.S. Department of Education would receive $64.2 billion for FY 2010, an amount that is slightly more than the $63.5 billion contained in the version passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The U.S. Department of Education received $62.6 billion in FY 2009.

More information on both versions of the FY 2010 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill is available here

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