WASHINGTON, May 27, 2015 – Republican plans to use the appropriations process to block President Obama’s regulatory agenda could get sidetracked by a coming battle with Democrats over fiscal 2016 spending.

Democrats are vowing to block spending bills from moving in the Senate unless Republicans agree to increase the spending levels. That would require a broad new accord on spending akin to the Ryan-Murray agreement, named after Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., which increased spending for fiscal 2014 and 2015 beyond the levels imposed by a 2011 budget law.

Democrats, backed by the White House, say the fiscal 2016 caps that Republican appropriators are using to write the 12 individual spending bills would shortchange a wide range of programs. Republicans themselves acknowledge that the caps are tight, but GOP leaders have insisted on adhering to the limits set by the 4-year-old Budget Control Act. 

Democrats can’t do much about the caps in the House except vote against the individual spending bills as they come to the floor. But the Senate is another matter, since the rules allow Democrats to keep any spending bill from advancing as long as Republicans can’t get 60 votes required to end a filibuster. Republicans control just 54 Senate seats, so getting cloture on a bill requires support from at least six Democrats.

“We have a very good strategy, and I’m very optimistic about its chance for success,” the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee,” Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., told Agri-Pulse. “I want a new Murray-Ryan style budget agreement.”

Republican leaders have so far ruled out a budget deal, saying that it would require a tax increase that they can’t accept. “We know that both sides want the caps from the Budget Control Act removed, but at what price for our nation and its hardworking taxpayers?” asked Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., in a speech defending the spending limits.


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