WASHINGTON – The House and Senate are expected to vote this week on a short-term bill to fund the government for another seven days — giving lawmakers until just before Christmas to agree to a longer-term spending resolution before going home for the holidays.
“Later this week, members should be prepared to take quick action on a one-week [continuing resolution] so we can give appropriators more time to finish a full funding bill before the holidays,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned his colleagues on the Senate floor Monday.
Republicans and Democrats have been split for months over the so-called omnibus bill, which sets funding totals for defense and non-defense issues for the 2023 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
In late September, lawmakers approved a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Friday, by which point they were expected to come to a consensus on further spending during the post-midterm “lame duck” session.
However, an agreement has not been forthcoming.
Schumer said appropriators from both parties held “positive and productive conversations” over the weekend, “enough that both sides are moving forward in good faith to reach a deal, even if it’s not going to be everything both sides want.”
However, some Republican senators – including Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Braun of Indiana – have voiced opposition to voting on a major funding bill before Jan. 3, when the new Congress, including a GOP-led House, is sworn in.
“We believe it would be both imprudent, and a reflection of poor leadership, for Republicans to ignore the will of the American people and rubber stamp an omnibus spending bill that funds ten more months of President Biden’s agenda without any check on his reckless policies that have led to a 40-year high in inflation,” they wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
On Monday, Schumer said he was “optimistic” the Senate could take up the short-term funding bill “rather quickly” to allow negotiations to run through Dec. 23 and “avoid the shutdown that neither side wants.”
The Senate is also expected this week to take up the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, which sets the Pentagon’s funding priorities and policies for the current fiscal year. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill on Friday.
McConnell said Monday the Senate should take up the NDAA “as soon as possible,” but warned that it would have limited impact without the passage of a full-year funding bill.
“Congress authoriz[ing] the tools, training and equipment that our armed forces need will accomplish very little if we failed to then provide the actual funding,” McConnell said. “Both sides know what it would take for the Senate to pass a full year government funding bill into law – no mystery here.”
To reach an agreement, the Republican leader said Democrats need to roll back their spending desires after two years of “massively increasing domestic spending using party-line reconciliation bills outside their normal appropriations.”
“A funding agreement would need to fully fund our national defense at the level written into the NDAA without leveraging extra funding beyond what President Biden even requested on the Democrats’ partisan domestic priorities,” he said. “In other words, do not go beyond what the President asked for earlier this year on the domestic side.”
If Democrats cut back, McConnell said passing a full-year funding bill could be done.
“If House and Senate Democratic colleagues can accept these realities in the very near future, we may still have a shot at assembling a full year of funding bill that will give our military commanders the certainty they need to invest plan and stay competitive with rivals like China,” he said.
Otherwise, he added, “the option will be a short term bipartisan funding bill into early next year.”