Shutdown Averted for A Few More Weeks

Shutdown Averted for A Few More Weeks

With no drama, the Senate and House passed another Continuing Resolution this afternoon to keep the government operating for a few more weeks. For the third time since September, House Republican leadership was able to get a CR passed despite strong opposition from the ultra-conservative wing of their party. Without the bill, agencies funded by four of the 12 regular appropriations bills would have had to close down operations at midnight tomorrow.

The Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires tomorrow sets two different expiration dates: January 19 for departments and agencies funded in four of the appropriations bills and February 2 for the other eight. Those deadlines now are extended to March 1 and March 8.

The first set is Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-HUD, which includes the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

The second set is Commerce-Justice-Science (which funds NASA and NOAA), Defense, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch, and State-Foreign Ops.

Passage first by the Senate and then the House this afternoon was quick. The Senate was expected to pass the bill, H.R. 2872, without any trouble and it did by a vote of 77-18. Its fate in the House was somewhat uncertain because of opposition by the House Freedom Caucus, but Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) prevailed, with Republicans split 50-50 and all but two Democrats in favor for a vote of 314-108.

Then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his job because he worked with Democrats to pass the first FY2024 CR in September. After a three-week intra-party imbroglio, Johnson was elected as Speaker and soon did the same thing, passing a second CR against HFC objections. Whether he suffers any consequences for doing it again remains to be seen.

Senate and House members were motivated to act quickly today not only by the imminent expiration of the existing CR, but more wintry weather forecast for the D.C. area. Snow at the beginning of the week closed the government for a day and disrupted airline travel as late as Wednesday. Members wanted to head home before another round of snow arrives overnight. The Senate recessed until Monday and the House canceled votes for tomorrow.

President Biden is expected to sign the bill expeditiously.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been working on the 12 regular FY2024 appropriations bills for months and some passed the House and Senate, but the two chambers were using different top-line numbers for total government discretionary spending in FY2024.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the two chambers — Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — only agreed on a common top-line number on January 7.

House and Senate appropriators now need to work collaboratively to write final versions that can pass both chambers, no easy task especially since the House bills include social policy provisions that are unacceptable to Democrats. Whether 6-7 more weeks is enough time is unclear.

Until the regular FY2024 bills are passed, departments and agencies are held at their FY2023 levels and new programs cannot start or old ones end.

In terms of funding, most non-defense agencies are likely to be kept close to their FY2023 levels anyway, but defense spending is missing out on a three percent increase, less than what the Biden Administration requested, but an increase nonetheless.

Separately, Congress is debating a national security supplemental appropriations bills to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel. Republicans are demanding that the bill also address security at the U.S. border and immigration policy. Its fate also is up in the air.

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.