Congress kicked the FY24 can down the road again just one day before partial government shutdown, with the Senate voting 77-18 and the House voting 314-108 in favor of extending the current funding deadlines.
The latest continuing resolution (CR) provides Congressional negotiators more time to negotiate and pass a FY24 spending package that adheres to the total spending limits announced on January 7th. The new CR maintains the so-called ‘laddered’ approach of the previous CR, punting the January 19 deadline to March 1 for the Ag-FDA, Energy and Water, MilCon-VA, and T-HUD appropriations bills, and the February 2 deadline to March 8 for the remaining bills, including Labor-H and Defense.
While the new CR was necessary to avoid an impending shutdown, the timeline for FY24 is slipping closer to the April 30 sequestration date. As a reminder, the sequestration mandated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act would cut 1% from all non-exempt discretionary spending, including Defense. Congress must finalize an FY24 package that increases defense spending while largely maintaining non-defense discretionary spending at FY23 levels.
There has long been a large bipartisan majority in the House and Senate ready to reach a FY24 deal, but political dynamics within the House GOP have slowed the process significantly. The situation is so fraught that CRs are brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules as they lack the Republican support necessary to make it out of the House Rules Committee for a majority vote. In fact, this CR only held a majority of Republicans by 1 vote, 107-106, down from 127-93 for the last CR in November, and many Republicans continue to make maximalist demands that cannot pass Congress. Democrats have provided nearly unanimous support to allow clean extensions to pass the House with the necessary two-thirds majority.
The same internal backbiting that cost Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) his Speakership (and eventually his seat in Congress) is forcing current Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to walk a tightrope and choose between placating the most conservative parts of caucus or avoiding economically and politically damaging consequences. This will be the dynamic to watch over the next month and a half; while time remains to finish FY24 spending bills before April 30th (seven months after the beginning of the fiscal year), will the House Republican leadership engage in substantive negotiations, reach bipartisan bicameral agreements; and allow votes on the House floor? Or will unachievable demands and internal squabbles plunge the federal government into a shutdown?
Given Speaker Johnson’s fraying support from his conference and a razor-thin majority of just three votes, it is wise for advocates to keep their optimism guarded and continue to make the case for line items, language, and provisions that are critical to your organization.