by Kaitlin McColgan
On Monday, word got around Washington that the House and Senate appropriators had worked through the weekend and all but reached an agreement on an omnibus appropriations bill containing the nine remaining spending bills for FY2012, including the Labor-HHS bill which also funds the Health Centers program. The expectation was that the agreement would be posted Monday night.
However, as of this writing, the final conference report has not been released. Some reports indicate there are still a couple of outstanding issues to be negotiated, but the more likely reason for delay is the separate ongoing dispute over extending the payroll tax holiday. The White House and Senate are far apart from the House in terms of how to extend the payroll tax and other expiring provisions, or more specifically how to pay for them. The omnibus appropriations bill, which seems to have bipartisan support ,is now seemingly being delayed until the payroll tax issue can be negotiated as well. The White House had signaled it will not approve an omnibus until presented with a payroll tax bill the President can sign.
So, once again, appropriations seems to be at an impasse. The good news is that this time, the delay does not seem to be because of intractable differences between the two sides on funding. The bad news: no one seems to know what the next steps are on the payroll tax and appropriations seems to be in an indefinite holding pattern for the moment.
The waiting game continues, but hopefully with an end in sight.