Congress now faces the challenge of appropriating funds for FY 2024

by John Endean January 25, 2024 at 9:45PM EST


To ABC Members and Friends:

With the end of the Thanksgiving recess, Congress now faces the challenge of appropriating funds for FY 2024, which began on October 1.  Currently, the Senate has passed three of the twelve necessary appropriations bills.  The House has adopted seven.  None have been passed by both the Senate and the House.

The government has been kept open via the passage of two consecutive continuing resolutions, the more recent of which was passed and signed by the President just before Thanksgiving. The latest continuing resolution, which was largely the handiwork of Speaker of the House Johnson, is unusual.  It is a two-step, or, to use the new lingo, “laddered” bill.

The resolution first extends funding for four appropriations bills until January 19, 2024.  These bills are:  Military Construction/Veterans’ Affairs, Transportation/HUD, Agriculture, and Energy/Water.

The resolution funds the remaining eight appropriations categories until a February 2 deadline.  These eight are:  Defense, Homeland Security, Interior/Environment, Legislative Branch, Commerce/Justice/Science, Financial Services, Labor/HHS/Education, and State/Foreign Operations.  (In a private conversation with Donald Trump, he apparently received the ex-President’s blessing, or at least a promise to remain silent, regarding this two-step strategy.)

Speaker Johnson hopes the unusual structure of his continuing resolution will prevent what he calls the “monstrosity” of a single “Christmas omnibus” spending measure that would roll up into one bill, without much scrutiny, the FY 2024 appropriations measures along with unrelated supplemental funding measures.

Johnson’s continuing resolution contraption passed the House by a vote of 336-95.  (The CR passed the Senate 87-11 with 10 Republicans voting against along with Colorado’s Democratic Senator Michael Bennett.)

In the House, all but two Democrats voted yea.  Perhaps worrying for the Speaker, 93 Republicans – largely the conservative House Freedom Caucus – voted against the bill.  I suppose the Speaker took solace in the fact that when his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, relied on Democratic votes to pass important debt legislation, he found it to be a career-shortening decision.  Johnson has dodged that fate for now.

While still standing, Speaker Johnson remains on shaky ground with elements of his own caucus.  He’s going to have to deliver on the implied promise that his scheme will deliver results consistent with conservative goals.  I guess it all comes down to how the GOP House measures a win.  Maybe a moral victory – getting the fire-eaters’ agenda through the House alone – will be enough, since there is no way that a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House will dance to the Freedom Caucus’s tune.  In that sense, we are no closer to avoiding at least a partial shutdown of the government than we were before Thanksgiving.

As for the President’s $106 billion national security request, covering Ukraine, Israel, and, to a lesser extent, defense imperatives relative to China, it will have to be considered outside of the appropriations process.  In a Dear Colleague letter sent on Sunday night, Senate Majority Leader Schumer said he hopes for a vote on the President’s request as early as next week.  He’ll probably get it.

However, as we learned at our last meeting, House Republicans are skeptical regarding aid to Ukraine, even though the Speaker seems to favor it.  As for Israel, a few on the GOP’s right wing (e.g., Thomas Massie of Kentucky) are starting to question that as well, putting them near the Democratic progressive camp.  The ultimate fate of funding for Ukraine and Israel will tell us much about the nature of American leadership in the world.