September 16, 2003
Senate leaders weigh anti-shutdown measure
By Peter Cohn, CongressDaily
Delays in finishing the regular fiscal 2004 appropriations bills are leading Senate leaders to tentatively consider at least one two-week continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
That would get the Senate through a planned week-long recess until it reconvenes Oct. 14. Then it will be time to start thinking about an omnibus spending bill to wrap together unfinished bills, a Senate GOP leadership aide said.
Adding to the uncertainty is any potential early break this week for Hurricane Isabel and White House delivery of its $87 billion 2004 supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan, which is now expected by the end of this week.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he hoped the Senate would pass the Energy and Water appropriations bill by Wednesday. He also said he had not yet had conversations with Frist about continuing resolutions.
The Senate will try to complete as many appropriations bills as possible before it begins its recess on Friday, Oct. 3. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the Senate could complete work on the pending Energy and Water spending bill, after which the chamber could turn to the $19.6 billion Interior appropriations bill.
A Senate Republican aide said it could take three full days to finish the Interior bill, and only if it does not get bogged down in a dispute over attaching legislation to implement the Bush administration's "Healthy Forests" initiative. The aide said the measure also could become another battleground over the administration's plan to subject federal workers' jobs to competition from private firms.
Negotiations over fiscal 2003 supplemental funding to fight Western wildfires could determine whether Western senators try to attach more 2004 firefighting money to the Interior bill, aides said. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens R-Alaska, said Republicans had made an offer to Democrats on 2003 firefighting funds that have been added into the Legislative Branch spending bill.
After the Interior bill, candidates for Senate floor time before Oct. 3 include the Agriculture and VA-HUD spending bills, and possibly the District of Columbia funding measure. On Wednesday, House and Senate conferees plan to meet to reconcile the Homeland Security appropriations bill, and the conferences on the Military Construction spending bill also could convene this week. Stevens said the Defense spending conference is scheduled to meet Thursday.