Senate Appropriators Adopt FY2024 Spending Caps

Senate Appropriators Adopt FY2024 Spending Caps

The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted spending caps for its 12 subcommittees today. In most cases they are higher than their House counterparts. While that may seem like good news for the departments and agencies funded by those subcommittees, it highlights how much work lies ahead to come up with FY2024 spending bills that can pass both chambers and get signed into law by the President. If all 12 bills are not enacted by January 1, 2024, a one percent across-the-board cut will go into effect.

The Senate committee held a markup session for the subcommittee allocations and two of their 12 appropriations bills today. It’s the first time in two years they’ve held a markup at all. It also was the first time the committee met under the leadership of two women, Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Vice Chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), left, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), right, at Senate Appropriations Committee markup June 22, 2023. Screengrab.

Murray and Collins vowed at the beginning of the year and again today to restore regular order to the appropriations process, with all 12 bills marked up separately by committee and voted on by the full Senate instead of bundling them together into a massive omnibus bill.

That’s not to say they agree on everything. The subcommittee “302(b)” allocations were adopted on a party-line vote with all Republicans opposed.

However, they continued with consideration of the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs and Agriculture bills and they passed unanimously. Murray and Collins issued a joint statement afterwards.

“Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee held its first markup in two years and advanced two critical bills unanimously—bipartisan legislation that supports our veterans and our farmers, protects American consumers, provides funding for essential military construction, and much more,” said Chair Murray and Vice Chair Collins. “We are determined to continue working together in a bipartisan manner to craft serious funding bills that can be signed into law. Keeping the Senate appropriations process moving full steam ahead and in a bipartisan way is critical. Our nation absolutely must be able to count on a dependable appropriations process as we grapple with urgent challenges at home and abroad. We are both committed to ensuring that the voice of the Senate is heard through the appropriations process and expect a busy summer of markups and continued bipartisan deliberation.”

The subcommittee allocations cap the amount of money each subcommittee can spend. Murray made clear that although she strongly disagrees with the decisions made in the Fiscal Responsibility Act negotiated by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), it’s the law of the land and her subcommittee allocations comply with it.

Source: Senate Appropriations Committee

Murray, Collins and others insisted the numbers are too low, especially for defense. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), chairman of the Defense Subcommittee, nonetheless was circumspect because he thinks there will be chances to adjust spending as the process unfolds.

“If we don’t do our job here, we’re looking at a shutdown or an omnibus or a one percent across-the board cut. I don’t think this is going to be the last bite at this appropriations apple myself. I think there are going to be other bites coming down the line. But I do think we need to ratify the 302(b) allocations whether I like it or not.”  Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed the caps for defense are inadequate, especially for supporting Ukraine.

“Do you really want to be judged in history as having any moment of consequence to defeat Putin? To pull all the money from Ukraine? They’re not asking for any soldiers. Whoever negotiated this deal just assumed something about Ukraine. Now is not the time to assume anything.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham

Murray alluded to other appropriations actions that could come later.

“Just as we do every year, we can and will consider supplemental and emergency appropriations to address key challenges like getting communities who are struck by natural disasters the resources they need to recover, standing with our Ukrainian allies against Putin’s war of aggression, [and] ensuring we have the resources in place to address the situation at the border and stop the flow of fentanyl.” Sen. Patty Murray

Space activities, civil or military, did not feature in the discussion, but Murray did participate in the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee hearing on NASA’s budget request and expressed strong support.

Spending for defense and veterans medical care are exempted from cuts and the House Appropriations Committee also allocated more for Homeland Security than FY2024, but overall they decided to limit spending to FY2022 levels, not FY2023 as set in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. House committee Republicans insist the law set a “ceiling, not a floor” and they are free to appropriate less. Democrats assert they are reneging on the McCarthy-Biden deal. Unlike the Senate, the atmosphere in the House committee is fractious.

Subcommittees like Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), which includes NASA and NOAA, will experience greater cuts in the House than the Senate. CJS gets $58.676 billion in the House versus $69.637 billion in the Senate, for example.

The totals are for the subcommittees overall, so it’s not clear how any specific agency will fare, but in the end both sides of Capitol Hill need to reach agreement on legislation to send to the President for signature. If they don’t get all 12 bills done by the end of the year, the Fiscal Responsibility Act requires a one percent across-the-board cut to all of them, including defense.

The Senate committee will mark up the CJS bill on July 13 after Congress returns from a two-week recess over the July 4th holiday. The House committee has not yet set a date for marking up CJS, although it completed markup of the Defense bill today. It was quite contentious and the bill was approved on a party-line vote. A date for Senate committee action on Defense appropriations has not been announced.

The Transportation-HUD bill includes funding for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Neither committee has scheduled markup of that bill yet.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.