Reid: ‘We’re Through’ Doing Military and Homeland Security Appropriations First

Senate Democrats are making a bid to change the playbook on considering federal spending.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that unlike in some recent years, he wouldn’t try to work through what are often considered bipartisan spending measures first, like the Military Construction-VA measure or one funding the Department of Homeland Security, which are considered low-hanging fruit.

The result of that maneuver has been that Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, the Pentagon and some other departments and agencies get full bills enacted into law while others get stuck with a steady stream of stopgap measures.

“Those days are behind us,” Reid said. “We are not going to be gamed by having the military programs funded at a much higher level than Head Start program, or NIH. We’re not going to do that. We’re through.”

Reid and other Senate Democrats sounded emboldened following a caucus lunch meeting with National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, where Collins outlined what the Democrats called devastating effects of the budget sequester on the agency.

Reid said that Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., wants to move ahead with the typically more contentious Labor-HHS-Education measure and her own Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which Reid, perhaps in a nod to his own time as an appropriator, called the “Commerce-State-Justice” legislation.

“We need to have the fierce urgency of now to cancel sequester, and lift the caps and do it in a balanced way,” Mikulski said. “As of today, we’ve marked up eight of our appropriations bill. We will be on the floor next week with an appropriations bill, but we are heading to Oct. 1, and we need a solution.”

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