Congress returns to Washington this month to address a packed agenda, with one issue rising above the rest: spending. The Senate is back in session and the House plans to return on September 12, leaving lawmakers fewer than 20 working days to adopt a new spending agreement and prevent a government shutdown on October 1.
Party leadership in both chambers agree on the need for a temporary stopgap spending bill – a continuing resolution (CR) – to prevent a shutdown and allow more time to work out final FY24 appropriations, but any agreement between congressional leadership is no guarantee of enough votes to pass both chambers. Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the House is allowing some members to leverage their vote to pressure Republican leadership into slashing the final FY24 spending levels further than the levels agreed to by both parties when Congress voted to extend the debt ceiling in June.
House GOP appropriators have drafted a slate of spending bills that are already tens of billions of dollars below the bipartisan agreement, and the House Appropriations Committee has approved ten out of the twelve FY24 appropriations bills along entirely partisan lines. On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is working in a bipartisan fashion, which has guided all twelve spending bills through the Senate Appropriations Committee, with some bills adopted unanimously. Both the House and the Senate have a long way to go before they vote on their own versions of each bill – let alone reconcile the vast spending differences in each chamber before the legislation lands on the president’s desk.
Senate Appropriations Committee members are considering bringing the FY24 Military Construction Appropriations, FY24 Agriculture Appropriations, FY24 Transportation and Housing Appropriations and Biden’s supplemental request to the floor for a vote within the next month, but it is unclear if the bills will be rolled together or considered separately.
Regardless, the immediate focus remains on the September 30 deadline. Both the House and Senate are working on a short-term CR rumored to extend current spending and prevent the threat of a shutdown until early December. The task falls to Congressional leadership to whip enough votes in support of the extension, which is easier said than done in this environment.
White House Emergency Supplement Request
Funding is further complicated by President Biden’s request for $40.1 billion in an emergency supplemental spending package, which proposes an additional $24 billion for Ukraine funding, $12 billion for disaster relief and about $4 billion for border security. Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) say they are reviewing Biden’s request, noting there is bipartisan support in the Senate for aiding Ukraine in its defense against Russia and helping states recover from a slew of recent natural disasters. Any supplemental spending package will likely come from the Senate first, as Speaker McCarthy would need to rely on Democrats to put forth any successful Ukraine funding resolution. McCarthy will almost certainly come under pressure from conservatives demanding further spending concessions to offset the cost of aid to Ukraine.
In addition to the spending bill, there is notable authorizing legislation that Congress hopes to address before year’s end, with some major federal programs technically expiring at the end of September. Below are notable pieces of legislation in need of reauthorization this year:
FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 will mark the 63rd consecutive year that the National Defense Authorization Act becomes law. The measure is one of few must-pass annual legislative vehicles, as it directs funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and national security programs within the Department of Energy (DOE) and other agencies. Both the House and Senate have passed their versions of the bill, and chamber leadership must pass a reconciled bill before it reaches the president’s desk.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization
The FAA’s reauthorization expires on September 30 of this year, and a fight between airlines over DMV airport flight restrictions may derail reauthorization efforts. The bill passed the House on a 351-to-69 vote, but its Senate counterpart remains stuck in committee – it remains to be seen if the Senate version will reach a vote considering the chamber’s limited floor time. Just last week, the White House requested a short-term extension of the FAA through a concurrent resolution, citing the need for a temporary measure while disagreements persist.
Railway Safety Act
This bipartisan bill to strengthen rail safety requirements, improve train inspections, boost support for first responders & increase penalties on rail companies has received considerable traction in the Senate, where it was approved by the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in May. Similar to the FAA reauthorization, it is unclear if this bill will be scheduled for floor consideration.
In 2018, Congress passed The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act, a comprehensive piece of bipartisan legislation meant to address the opioid epidemic. The reauthorization bill has passed overwhelmingly in both chambers and tackles many aspects of addiction including treatment, prevention, recovery and enforcement. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved their version of the 2023 SUPPORT Act reauthorization, and HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has introduced the bill in the Senate.
The farm bill includes a wide variety of agriculture-related topics such as nutrition, conservation, trade and energy. Major programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and emergency food assistance programs, as well as crop insurance programs. Without reauthorization, some farm bill programs would expire, such as the nutrition assistance and farm commodity support programs. Other programs have permanent authority and do not need reauthorization (e.g., crop insurance) and are included in the bill to make policy changes or achieve budgetary goals.
Notably, the 2018 farm bill authorized the production of hemp, and many groups are looking to make additional policy changes through reauthorization. At this point, no formal legislation for a new farm bill has been proposed in either chamber.