The $481 billion, nine-department omnibus appropriations bill that's wending its way through the House this week may be the last of its kind. House Democrats, particularly those elected to office in recent cycles, are frustrated that their leadership has cut them out of the decision-making and bill-writing process. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the chief deputy whip and member of the appropriations committee, has "a foot in both camps," she conceded this morning at an Atlantic post-speech briefing. But she said that the willingness of rank-and-file Democrats to allow the Speaker's office and committee chairs to run bills and resolutions outside regular order "is about run out," and that the FY 2009 approps legislation is the last straw. The resolution includes healthy spending increases for a variety of government departments. A continuing resolution funding most of the U.S. government expires next Friday.
During their early February retreat, Speaker Pelosi promised her caucus a return to regular order, asserting that the stimulus package negotiations had to be fast-tracked due to the urgency of the situation. The omnibus is, in many ways, last year's business.
But Obey, a proud liberal not known to mince words or cede his ground, is determined to retain the authority that his seniority confers on him. As Obama's 2010 budget proposal begins to be fleshed out, the conflict within the House Democratic caucus may be more interesting, and, ultimately, consequential, than any opposition that the minority Republicans can muster.