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Get Ready for a Hectic September

As summer comes to an end and Members of Congress begin returning to D.C. next week, appropriations work is about to take off. Congress has less than 17 voting days (the Senate returns before the House) remaining to pass legislation to fund the government in FY24.

House Speaker McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Schumer have both acknowledged that a continuing resolution (CR) will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown. Meanwhile, the House Freedom Caucus has formally announced that its members will oppose any short-term stopgap measures unless a series of demands are met, including:

- Adherence to FY22 spending levels;

- Addressing political weaponization of the FBI and DOJ;

- Ending “woke” Department of Defense policies;

- Full passage of the of the Secure the Border Act of 2023; and

- No “blank check[s] for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill.”

This is a tall order for Speaker McCarthy to say the least. Most of these demands won’t fly in the democrat-controlled Senate. With a razor-thin majority in the House, McCarthy may need votes from Democrats to pass a CR in the event that the Freedom Caucus balks. It’s hard to imagine Minority Leader Jeffries delivering sufficient votes for McCarthy without concessions on rolling back the significant spending cuts in the House’s pending appropriations bills.

Another question is what a CR looks like. Will it fund the government through the end of the calendar year? McCarthy has gone on record as saying a CR would lapse in early December in order to avoid the pressure caused by pushing up against the holiday recess. Others in the GOP have proposed a series of short-term CRs that would fund the government for a few weeks at a time to hold Congress accountable and on-task.

Even if a CR keeps the government running through the end of the calendar year, then comes the issue of the bulk of FY24 funding. On the subject of omnibus package, the Freedom Caucus has also stated that its members “will oppose any attempt by Washington to revert to its old playbook of using a series of short-term funding extensions designed to push Congress up against a December deadline to force the passage of yet another monstrous, budget busting, pork filled, lobbyist handout omnibus spending bill at year’s end and we will use every procedural tool necessary to prevent that outcome.”

Depending on how you interpret this, this means either that the Caucus would put forth parameters for their ideal omnibus package, or that any kind of omnibus is completely off the table and Congress would have to pass all appropriations bills by December. The current tally of appropriations bills that have passed in the House and Senate? 1 out of 24.

To be sure, it’s absolutely possible for Congress to pass the remaining appropriations bills before 2024. But doing so would require serious comprise in the House, followed by a concise conference between the House and Senate to reach agreed upon funding levels. A more likely approach: Congressional leadership identifies which spending bills stand a chance of passing their respective chambers without hiccups and address the remaining bills in a series of mini-bus packages. Hopefully this would satisfy the Freedom Caucus’ opposition to a large omnibus bill.

No matter how Congress opts to address FY24 appropriations, advocates would do well to hone their funding and legislative asks as soon as possible. Appropriations work is about to take up significant bandwidth on Capitol Hill.


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