Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Info Coming on Omnibus Budget

One of the web sites that I review nearly every morning is the Daily Digest from the Congressional Record. This is a good summary page of the previous day’s activity in Congress and is usually available first thing in the morning. Yesterday it was not available until well after lunch and I found out why last night. Sen. Inouye (D, HW), the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is paying the cost of cobbling together this bill outside of normal procedures.

Typically, a bill is introduced, referred to Committee and the Committee favorably reports the bill before it comes to the floor for a vote. In the case of appropriations bills, that report is very important as it adds a much greater level of detail about how the government can spend the money provided by the bill. Since this bill did not go through that process, there is not Committee Report. So Sen. Inouye is being forced to provide the information in the form of ‘explanatory statements’ in the Congressional Record. This is the tool that is typically used to explain the results of a Conference Committee report.

Yesterday, the Congressional Record (for Dec 12th) had over 300 pages of ‘explanatory statements’ for the first three Divisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act that the Senate will try to substitute for the House version of HR 3082. That 300 page installment did not include the DHS Division (Division F). That should be reported in the Congressional Record that is being delayed today (for yesterday) if they keep to the same 3 Divisions per day schedule.

When they are published, I’ll take a look and see if I can glean any more details about the DHS chemical security spending.

BTW: I’m not a legal scholar or a Senate Rules expert, but I don’t think that the Senate can take up this amendment until all of the ‘explanatory statements’ have been published. At the very least it would make for some interesting subsequent legal arguments about the ‘intent of Congress’.

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