In spite of the post election pledge of both parties and the White House to cooperate to accomplish necessary legislation, the recent record of all parties is not encouraging in this regard. What is clear is that with the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, significant consequences will result in at least 3 areas of the annual appropriations process:
1.The overall level of Federal spending will likely be less under Republican leadership of the Committee and the House of Representatives, irrespective of the Budget submitted by the President. Additionally, the spending cuts will target traditional "Democratic" programs with "Democratic" constituencies. Funding levels for Defense and Homeland security programs will not be harmed nearly as much as the social and other programs traditionally favored by a Democratic majority.
2.Earmarks for Member projects, if not eliminated entirely, will become increasingly more transparent and harder to secure. Republicans seem more willing to forgo the traditional Congressional prerogative of funding Member projects through the numerous appropriations bills and to allow the Administration greater latitude in the area of project funding (known as "grants" when the administration does it). A large number of current Republicans have already signed a letter to never request or support appropriations projects from Members, or "earmarks." This topic was mentioned in the Republican Leadership press conference Wednesday morning and the President, not surprisingly, mentioned this topic as an area of agreement that the White House and House could work on together. The incoming freshman class of Republicans in the House and Senate will have an even more strident and negative view of this process.
3.The Republican leadership has already promised to use the appropriations process to fight the Obama "agenda" by threatening to "defund" already authorized programs of the current White House. Particularly in the area of the unpopular Health Care Reform Bill, Republicans have promised to "defund" aspects of the provision if they are unable to repeal the program in its entirety. Such action will invite Presidential vetoes of the funding bills and most surely add to the acrimony and confrontational nature of the next Congress in its relationship with the Obama Administration.
Additional friction will occur in the appropriations process with the House and Democratic-controlled Senate likely producing very different versions of the 12 separate appropriations bills, making compromise between the two chambers more difficult in the numerous conference committees that will be charged with the reconciliation of the differences in the spending priorities of the two bodies.
All in all, the already difficult and partisan nature of the Appropriations process will become even more contentious in the new Congress. With the advent of differing majorities in the House and Senate, those seeking appropriations should find the process an even more messy and treacherous one in which to maneuver.