Congress adjourned for its long summer break Thursday still far apart on top-line 2024 spending levels with only a few weeks left to reconcile the difference.
There are also looming deadlines to pass a new farm bill and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
Congress faces a partial government shutdown if it hasn’t passed funding bills or a short-term continuing resolution by Sept. 30. The conservative wing of the House has said it will not vote for a short-term funding measure or a large omnibus bill — like the $1.7 billion one passed last year — raising the risks of a partial government shutdown.
The stakes are higher this year due to the May 31 debt ceiling agreement reached between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. The deal calls for across-the-board 1% spending cuts starting Jan. 1 if Congress still has a continuing resolution in place. But the sequestration mechanism – which would affect direct-pay bonds – would not take effect until April 30.
The last time Congress passed all its annual spending bills before Sept. 30 was in 1997, according to Congressional Quarterly.
For fiscal 2024, top line spending under the debt ceiling deal is set at $1.59 trillion, with $886 billion for defense spending and $703 billion for non-defense discretionary spending programs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed all 12 appropriations bills with strong bipartisan support that stick to those figures. None of the bills have reached the full Senate floor.
The House Appropriations Committee has marked up its bills to total $1.47 trillion, which is flat to 2022 levels, with Republicans bickering over the deeper cuts and non-fiscal amendments that target issues like abortion funding. Biden on Monday vowed to veto the House appropriations bills if they reached his desk.
The House has only passed one funding bill, by a narrow margin that signals trouble ahead. McCarthy canceled a planned Friday vote on $23.5 billion agricultural bill amid demands for more cuts from the chamber’s right flank.
On the Senate side, top appropriators Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced this week an agreement to call for an additional $13.7 billion in emergency funding on top of the appropriations bills. That includes $8 billion for defense and $5.7 billion for non-defense programs.
“This additional funding is important to us to be able to continue to work together on a bipartisan basis to address the urgent challenges our country faces,” Murray said at a committee markup hearing Thursday.