As it stands now, the House has passed 10 of its 12 Fiscal Year 2020 (“FY20”) spending bills, and the remaining two bills were passed out of the Appropriations Committee. On the Senate side, the Appropriations Committee has passed 10 of its 12 FY20 bills, and those bills are now awaiting action by the full Senate. House and Senate Appropriations Committee staff have been meeting over the October recess to work out the differences between their FY20 spending bills. Ultimately, differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved before they can go to the president for signature. In the meantime, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that goes through November 21.
One of the biggest issues for Senate appropriators to work out when they return next week is determining what is a “poison pill.” The bipartisan budget deal Congress agreed to in July included an agreement banning “poison pill” policy riders on the FY20 and FY21 spending bills. The annual spending bills usually include some contentious riders that trigger partisan clashes and slow down the process. Past poison pill riders have been on issues such as abortion, gun control, and environmental regulations. The ban on riders was intended to speed up the appropriations process. However, there isn’t agreement on what constitutes a poison pill. Democrats on the committee wanted to offer an amendment to reverse the Mexico City Policy in the FY20 State Foreign Operations bill when it was considered in committee. They argued that the amendment long had bipartisan support and should have been permitted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has defined a poison pill as anything that is not in existing law. A resolution may be needed to get the spending bills moving again in the Senate.