Congress keeps the lights on, but a new crisis takes its place
On Saturday September 30th – the last possible day before a federal government shutdown – the House Republican majority finally agreed to advance a continuing resolution (CR) extending current federal funding until November 17th. The House and Senate passed the CR with bipartisan majorities and President Biden signed it into law. You can read text of the CR here.
Despite clearing the extremely low bar of keeping the government’s lights on, the process inflamed existing divisions among House Republicans, and yesterday Speaker McCarthy became ex-Speaker McCarthy.
With just six weeks remaining until government funding runs out, the question quickly becomes…
House GOP leadership’s plans to continue floor and Committee consideration of the remaining funding bills are on hold, as the House adjourned for the week and scheduled Speaker elections next Wednesday, October 11, which may trigger new elections down the leadership ladder. Eight of the twelve Appropriations bills have not been passed by the House.
Whichever candidate emerges as the new Speaker of the House will be subject to the same constraints that hampered Kevin McCarthy – a hardline faction that demands the House only pass the most austere spending levels and reactionary social policies, and rejects negotiations with Democrats in the House, Senate, or White House. As we have seen, this makes enacting law under divided government extremely painful.
Should additional bills make it to the House floor, the majority will likely attempt to cut funding even more deeply via amendments. For example, the Labor-H bill (which has not even been considered by the full Committee), would eliminate funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and slash funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) among other HHS agencies, jeopardizing public health preparedness and medical research. Yet some in the majority will view these cuts as insufficient and seek to inflict even more severe cuts.
The Senate may try to advance its own appropriations packages, but that chamber’s rules make it far more difficult to pass bills. Approaching expiration of the current CR on November 17th, another high-stakes showdown is likely. A volatile House majority and new Speaker will seek to extract massive concessions as a condition of funding the government.
What Advocates Can Do:
- Rally advocates to the agencies’ defense and attempt to peel off amendment votes for policies detrimental to your organization’s priorities. Advocates should be outspoken about the consequences of bills that make significant cuts to their priorities. Keep up communication with the Hill and activate grassroots and grasstops networks to call for the protection of essential programs. Offering your own amendments on the floor is another option for martialing support and getting members on record about your priorities.
- Reunite with your appropriations allies and re-engage in the FY24 process through sign-on letters and touch bases with Congressional champions in the House and the Senate. Your goal must be to maintain visibility of your issues in both chambers as they continue to work through the FY24 appropriations process. Make sure that coalition members are sharing messages and information with the Hill in support of your shared goals.
- Remember that the Fiscal Responsibility Act creates an automatic year-long CR beginning January 1st if appropriations are not signed into law, but cuts all discretionary spending by 1%. This was created as a mechanism to force Congress to enact FY24 bills, but it also provides a backstop for programs that might be gutted in House bills.
If you have questions, please reach out to us today to see how we can help turn your advocacy goals into advocacy success. At CRD Associates, We Make Change Happen.