Continuing Resolution. The current “clean” continuing resolution (CR) expires on Friday, November 17. This is the same funding mechanism that led to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) successfully offering a motion to vacate the Chair and the subsequent three-week search for a new Speaker of the House-an important backdrop and context for the current debate.
Left to its own devices, the Senate Democratic Majority (with President Biden’s support) would proffer another clean CR, likely expiring prior to Christmas. The House Republican Majority, however, is firmly opposed to a clean CR.
House Republicans have instead been internally debating several options put forward by Speaker Mike Johnson, including a so-called “laddered CR” approach that would extend some appropriations bills into December and others into January; and a more traditional extension of all bills into January. The latter approach would likely include either spending cuts or policy changes like the House’s immigration reform package (H.R. 2) and/or a bipartisan debt commission (primarily focused on mandatory spending).
To date, there have not been any real discussions between the Parties and the Administration on what a consensus CR might look like, either with respect to the length of an extension or with respect to expiring provisions that will need to be included (e.g., FAA, Farm Bill, etc.). Thus, with just over a week to act before a possible government shutdown, the two Chambers are at a rhetorical impasse and approaching FY24 government funding on two separate paths.
Individual Bills. This brings us to the 12 individual FY24 appropriations bills. The House continues to move forward with its bills, attempting to pass the THUD and FSGG measures this week. Last night, however, Speaker Johnson pulled consideration of THUD from the floor due to lack of support within the Republican Conference. The House is now considering the FSGG bill. Should the House pass FSGG before the end of the week, it will have completed work on eight (out of 12) appropriations bills, a healthy number compared to just three in the Senate.
A not-so-insignificant dynamic is the new House Republican Leadership table. Unlike previous House GOP Leadership tables (every single one dating back to 1995), this Leadership table has been inclusive of the entire table. Speaker Johnson is earnest in wanting to seek input from his entire Leadership team, as well as all sides of the Conference. And while Johnson’s inclusive approach has paid dividends on restarting consideration of individual appropriations bills, it has the chance of creating too much internal debate without finding resolution (as is the current state of the House CR).
Left to its most fundamental preference, the House would conference each of the 12 appropriations bills individually with the Senate. Several factors make that exceedingly difficult, particularly the calendar, the Senate’s slow process, the wide gulf in spending levels and policy provisions between the two Chambers, and the coming one percent across-the-board cut triggered by the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).
Supplemental Appropriations. Adding to the complexity of the government funding exercise is the Administration’s supplemental spending requests, of which there are many (e.g., Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, domestic). The House has already passed an Israel supplemental, albeit with a corresponding cut in IRS funding that was opposed by the President and most congressional Democrats.
Meanwhile, Senate GOP members presented their Democratic counterparts with an opening bid for a Senate supplemental to include certain items from the House-passed H.R. 2 border security measure. Their proposal was immediately panned by Majority Whip Dick Durbin. Still, some senior Democrats have held out the possibility of doing something policy-related on the border in order to help move GOP votes to the “yes” column on the all-inclusive (Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, domestic) supplemental. But it is slow going.
OUTLOOK/ANALYSIS. At this rate, the CR situation will have to be dealt with first. Speaker Johnson continues to weigh various options but has set an internal goal of introducing language for a House CR by this Saturday. If there’s no agreement between the House and Senate, or movement on a House Republican CR, the Senate would likely generate its own CR sometime next week.
Despite Speaker Johnson’s personal touch and broader latitude within the Conference (especially with the House Freedom Caucus), there are quite a few House Republicans who remain “forever No” on any kind of CR. No matter the duration or the spending level. That seems to be the immovable object here. Thus, a House Republican-only bill seems unlikely. Will Speaker Johnson be able to craft something in the coming days that passes with bipartisan votes? Or will he have to wait for the Senate to produce its own bill? All of those are outstanding questions yet to be answered.
Beyond that, it remains possible that the Senate will consider another minibus (after passing its first – MilCon/VA, THUD and Ag – last week). But that wouldn’t be taken up until after Thanksgiving, and probably not until after the supplemental situation is addressed. Finally, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it publicly clear that any supplemental spending bill must contain border money and policy to pass the Senate.