Last week, federal employees, Capitol Hill staff, lobbyists, advocates, stakeholders and pundits were bracing for a federal government shutdown. Given the level of dysfunction on Capitol Hill, it was assumed the House wouldn’t be able to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would also pass the Senate and win a presidential signature. It turns out, they were able to do just that.
Hours away from a lapse in federal funding, the House and Senate passed a “clean” stopgap spending bill Saturday, September 30, 2023. The CR funds the government at current spending levels until November 17, 2023, and provides $16 billion in disaster relief. Members of both parties and the White House lamented the measure’s lack of funds for Ukraine; conservatives were angry it did not address the southern border. The bill also reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration and the national flood insurance program through the end of this year.
The House passed the continuing resolution 335-91. Ninety Republicans voted no, as did just one Democrat — Illinois Representative Mike Quigley. Some Republicans changed their initial “yes” votes to “no” after seeing that Democratic support for the measure would ensure its passage. The Senate followed, approving the bill by a vote of 88-9. President Joe Biden signed the measure before midnight.
The days and weeks leading up to Saturday were full of drama. Threats, ultimatums, and a pulled fire alarm kept Capitol Hill reporters busy. They won’t get a break. As of Monday, October 2, 2023, lawmakers and others were already wondering what resolution might come before November 17, 2023, to prevent a shutdown or wrap up work on FY 2024 spending bills. In addition, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will face a challenge to his Speakership from Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Representative Gaetz has been a vocal critic of the Speaker all year. He feels the choice to put a CR that would need Democratic votes to pass must be punished.
In addition to what seems like personal conflicts, the issues appropriators face are not different. Spending levels, Ukraine funding, border policies and various contentious policy issues that have been included in a number of spending bills will need to be negotiated. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all 12 of its FY 2024 spending bills with broad bipartisan support. The House passed four bills—the Defense, Homeland Security, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and the State-Foreign Operations bills. Those have only Republican support and propose significant cuts that would not win Senate approval or presidential signature. Substantial work remains on both sides of the Capitol if all 12 bills are to be passed by the next high-stakes deadline. Many assume the end result for FY 2024 will be long-term CR and are wondering when lawmakers will concede the same.