After weeks of smooth sailing, the congressional appropriations process has hit metaphorical rocks. The Senate abruptly stopped consideration of a package of three spending bills when the political parties failed to reach an agreement on how to manage amendments to the bills.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) insisted that amendments had to gain at least 60 votes. Republicans countered that a simple majority of 51 votes should be the threshold. When no agreement was reached, the bills were pulled from the Senate floor.

Almost two weeks have passed since this dispute began.

The spending package would provide funding for fiscal year 2015 for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Transportation, as well as the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

Many policy experts see this development as a sign that this year’s appropriations process may not occur as smoothly as was hoped. Senior members of both parties had strived to return to regular order, where each of the twelve spending bills is debated, conferenced, and enacted prior to the start of the new fiscal year on 1 October 2014. For the past several years, Congress has been unable to complete this process on time, instead relying on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating until a catch-all omnibus is enacted.


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