With the federal fiscal year ending on September 30th, Congress remains on a collision course over annual spending and a continuing appropriations resolution or “CR”. Traditionally, passing a CR to keep the government open and operating is a routine annual affair with legislators not completing work on the appropriations bills until the end of the calendar year (or start of the next year). However, ongoing tension between the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican party have stymied efforts to move (any) legislation through the House of Representatives.
Conservatives are calling for deep funding cuts to discretionary programs, partisan policy riders on hot-button issues, and not including emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine in any must-pass legislation. Not only is this approach a non-starter in the Senate and with the White House, but moderate House Republicans are resistant as well. Given the extremely slim majority in the House, the result is a stalemate with House Speaker McCarthy still looking for an off-ramp.
If no CR is enacted, the government will shutdown resulting in many federal programs and mechanisms grinding to a halt. While Social Security, the VA, and the military are considered mandatory or essential programs, most parts of the nation’s medical research and patient care enterprise is considered discretionary and prone to disruption from even a brief shutdown.
The Senate continues to work in a bipartisan fashion and appears to simply be waiting for the House to get its house in order. The Senate has advanced all twelve annual appropriations bills with overwhelming bipartisan support and is interested in an emergency supplemental spending package that includes disaster relief and Ukraine aid. The Senate has also expressed its preference for a “clean” CR that maintains funding for federal programs and does not include policy riders. The Senate has also indicated the HELP Committee will hold a hearing to advance the nomination of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as the next NIH Director in October (though the specific date and time could be impacted by a shutdown on October 1st).
By: Dane Christiansen, Washington Representative