As legislators prepare to return to Capitol Hill in early September, following the August congressional recess, they will be faced with a handful of timely, pressing items. Most notably, Congress will need to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating past the September 30th end of the current fiscal year. While this is normally a mundane task to buy time to ultimately finalize annual spending measures in December, staunch conservatives in the House are seeking to leverage the opportunity to push for funding cuts and concessions on hot-button policy issues. With a majority of only a few votes, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will need to find a way to balance the needs and interests of his entire caucus or pass a consensus bill that gains Democratic support. If Congress does not pass a CR before the end of September, lawmakers risk a damaging government shutdown.
The ongoing partisanship and tension in the House has led to slower than normal progress on annual items. House lawmakers have struggled with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and military support while also advancing only a few of the FY 2024 appropriations bills. In fact, so much funding was cut from the House appropriations bills to placate conservatives that moderate Republicans communicated they could no longer support the measures. The House is currently at an impasse with some Republicans in the majority calling for further cuts while others would like to see recent proposed cuts rolled back; there is no clear path forward at this time.
Across the Capitol, the Senate has worked diligently on its FY 2024 appropriations bills even reporting all twelve bills out of committee with strong bipartisan support. The Senate has been critical of the House approach of focusing on divisive policy riders and deep funding cuts, and is seeking a traditional process with nominal funding increases and no policy riders. The Senate has also expressed a strong interest in using supplemental emergency appropriations (for Ukraine, disaster relief, etc) to enhance modest FY 2024 funding for many federal programs. For any spending bills to become law though, they will need to pass both the House and Senate, and then be signed by the President.
By: Dane Christiansen, Washington Representative