Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer may have found common ground on FY17 appropriations, but little else.
It was a busy lead-up to the two-week Congressional Easter break. Despite the appearance of failing to pass key legislation and having to exercise a rules change in the Senate to confirm an Associate Justice, second order headlines could read“General optimism to pass FY17 appropriations before the CR expires.” Having visited 25 offices this week and meeting with Senators, Congressmen, Committee and Subcommittee Chairmen, committee staffs and member office staffs, there is a positive development in sight. Republicans and Democrats in both chambers acknowledge that it is likely we will see passage of an omnibus appropriation that includes at least the overdue FY17 defense and homeland security appropriations – and could include others such as State/Foreign Operations. International developments and the need to provide DOD with immediate support to address readiness challenges portend a brief moment of bi-partisan agreement. Readiness challenges in Dod were highlighted again this week in fairly stark terms during testimony from Service Chiefs. Should an omnibus pass, it frees up some workspace to get on with FY18 legislation…FY18 is now just six months away.
The FY18 budget delivery to Congress will occur by May 15th. Defense committees had been targeting mid-May as a potential “mark-up” window. Look for mark-ups in late May in the House, and early June in the Senate…best case.
The Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Friday with a 54-45 vote, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans eliminated the 60-vote cloture to end debate and filibuster for high court nominees.