Path for omnibus funding bill is revealed. Route to balanced budget amendment still unclear.

Last train for 2012 funding, now boarding.

Federal funding for Fiscal Year 2012 is coming down to one last big omnibus bill. Negotiations on the nine remaining appropriations bills were largely finished as of Monday morning, December 5. The thorny issues — riders, abortion amendments — that were not resolved by the subcommittees will go to the House leadership for disposition. Because the bills will need more than Republican votes in order to pass (as many as 100 Republicans may vote no because spending is too high or for other reasons), the bills must be crafted to gain Democratic votes too. Conferees will be appointed on Wednesday or Thursday of this week; a conference meeting will be held and the bill will probably be filed on Monday the 12th. We at the Blog are told that other likely candidates to be added to the bill (if separate negotiations are successful) include a payroll tax cut extension and unemployment insurance extension. The vehicle for moving this Omni will be the Military Construction bill, since it already passed the House and the Senate. Recall that the latest Continuing Resolution requires the Fiscal Year 2012 bills to pass no later than December 18, 2011.

The research funding appropriations for NIH and the Dept. of Defense will be negotiated in the conference committee. NIH’s Fiscal Year 2012 funding will likely land somewhere between the Senate’s $30.5 billion, a cut of $190 million, and the House’s $31.7 billion, a proposed increase of $1 billion, The National Science Foundation appropriation was approved in the minibus bill that passed last month (see November 21 entry, below).

Granted, it’s faint praise: but your Blogger finds it oddly reassuring that despite a really bad year, Congress is functioning well enough to complete the year’s remaining spending bills. Balanced Budget Amendment

As directed by the Budget Control Act debt deal from the summer, both houses of Congress must vote on a Balanced Budget amendment by December 31. H.J. Res. 2, a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), failed to gain the 2/3rds majority required for passage in the House on November 18. The final vote tally was 261 Y-165 N.

The required Senate vote on a BBA could come as early as this week. It’s likely that the Senate will vote on two different versions. One is the more extreme version, S.J.Res. 23, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and cosponsored by all 47 Senate Republicans. S.J.Res 23 is similar to the House’s H.J.Res.1 version, and contains a severe global spending cap, 2/3rds majority requirement for increasing revenues, and 3/5ths majority requirement for increasing the debt limit. We also expect a vote on a BBA introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), which is co-sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Ben Nelson (D-NE), that does not contain the spending caps and supermajorities for raising revenues and the debt limit.

Neither of the two BBA versions is likely to garner the 67 votes (2/3) required for constitutional amendments.