House Leaves Washington Without Passing Spending Bills Ahead Of Government Shutdown Deadline

Photo of the US Capitol / Photo by the US Capitol via Flickr

The House of Representatives adjourned for a two-week recess ahead of the third extended deadline to fund the government for the 2024 fiscal year, which will leave merely three legislative days to do so once they return.

Both houses of Congress passed a continuing resolution, the third such legislation since the fiscal year, on Jan. 18 to avert a partial government shutdown scheduled for Jan. 19. Part of the funding authorized by that resolution is scheduled to expire on March 1, though neither chamber of Congress has made headway in passing all 12 appropriations bills needed to permanently fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

“I don’t think that the group of people that we have up here were ever serious about doing the appropriations process,” Republican Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’ve been really frustrated. The fact of the matter is, this isn’t a conservative conference.”

The House will return from its “District Work Period” on Feb. 28, which is three days before the first funding deadline on March 1, when funding for the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development will expire. Funding for the remainder of the government will expire on March 8.

The Senate, by contrast, adjourned for a two-week state-work period on Tuesday and will return on Feb. 26.

A continuing resolution temporarily renews funding for previously authorized programs and policies at the same levels and without enabling new spending. By passing three continuing resolutions, Congress has prolonged the spending levels set by the Democratic-led Congress in 2022, which Biden administration officials have blasted as woefully inadequate.

“A year-long CR would misalign billions of dollars, subject Service members and their families to unnecessary stress, damage our readiness, and impede our ability to react to emergent events,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Dec. 12. “We would lose time and money the Nation cannot afford to lose on the modernization of the nuclear triad, expansion of shipbuilding capacities [and] execution of hundreds of military construction projects.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Jan. 7 a bipartisan spending deal for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2024. Legislation to enact that deal has not yet been proposed, raising the possibility that an omnibus spending bill may be introduced instead of 12 separate appropriations bills, which many Republicans have opposed.

“I don’t support an omnibus. I think we should try and pass as many different appropriations bills as possible, avoiding the larger omnibus-style bills,”  Republican Rep. Ben Cline of Virginia told the DCNF.

Cline indicated that smaller combinations of bills may be passed to expedite the process of funding.

“They’re talking about several different combinations of bills … if we have to pass two of them together at a time to get things done, I’m willing to consider that,” he said.

“They can’t get their people to vote for the damn bills. Every step of the way, they can’t get their people to do it,” Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, told the DCNF.

The House has passed seven appropriations bills out of the twelve required.

The protracted delay in the process of funding the government for Fiscal Year 2024 has alarmed some members who fear that time to complete appropriations for Fiscal Year 2025 is being lost.

“We haven’t even started on 2025. Where’s the budget? We need a budget, a top-line number,” Republican Rep. Mike Collins of Georgia told the DCNF. “But you know, like I do … how Washington is, they wait to the last second.”

Johnson did not answer multiple questions from the DCNF.

Arjun Singh on February 15, 2024

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