This week officially kicks off the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process as the House Appropriations Committee begins their subcommittee markups. While the Appropriations Committee is historically fairly bipartisan (behind the scenes), this year brings some new challenges as the appropriations debate occurs within the shadow of a debt ceiling debate that will need to be resolved by the end of the month. Here are the five issues to watch as the spending debate continues:
Quick Movement in the House: As is usually the case, the House will move their FY 2024 funding bills through the Committee and the House floor fairly quickly. They are able to do that because passage only requires a simple majority, and Republicans will prioritize advancing these bills as a means of pushing the Senate to act and to highlight that their work is done on-time.
Funding Debate Brings Policy Debate: There is a significant amount of policy that is attached to funding bills (and their accompanying reports) and, given that the opportunities to advance policy issues are limited, it is likely that these bills will ultimately become a venue for key policy debates as well. With the House likely to consider bills under an open rule (i.e., unlimited amendments), there will be plenty of opportunities for policymakers to use the process to elevate their priority issues.
CR is Very Likely: Completing the work in both the House and Senate and coming to an agreement before the end of September is unlikely, if not impossible. Expect a continuing resolution of FY 2023 spending levels to push the debate closer to the end of the year. Whether an omnibus happens then or becomes a victim of early 2024 political debates is yet to be known. All that being said, both sides will work hard to avoid a government shutdown and will likely be able to do so.
Funding Levels Will Take Center Stage: One of the biggest issues on the political horizon for policymakers and candidates is the economy, which always leads to a debate around spending. This year, there is even more focus on these issues as House Republicans work to reduce spending across the board and now have the committee gavels to do so. The biggest question is whether compromise with the Senate is possible or whether their views on appropriate spending levels are just too far apart. History shows that compromise is likely, but the looming election and all-time high levels of partisanship between Republicans and Democrats do not help.
Impact of Community Project Funding (i.e. Earmarks) TBD: As hundreds of Member-led Community Project Funding requests will make their way into FY 2024 funding bills this year, we will have to see whether that adjusts policymakers' urgency to compromise in order to get bills over the finish line and be well-positioned to highlight wins back home during election season. They certainly provide a good incentive for policymakers to get the spending bills finished, but they will likely not drive the direction of negotiations.
The looming FY24 spending debate will be an interesting case study (the first of this majority) on how Republicans and Democrats work together to fund the government. There will, of course, be disagreement and delay, but that is not all that unusual. The larger challenge will be whether both sides can come together the get these spending bills to the President's desk by the end of this year.