Lawmakers are facing a serious time crunch to eliminate government funding for fiscal year 2023 as they return to Capitol Hill with Republicans poised to take a narrow majority in the House. Congress has until December 16 to agree new funding levels to avoid a government shutdown. And while they could push back the deadline if negotiations need more time, lawmakers on both sides have insisted that Congress finish its work before January, when a new Congress will be sworn in.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) said Sunday he had already started telling his colleagues to prepare for ‘tough work’ and ‘long hours’ before returning lawmakers this week. “We will try to have as productive a lame duck session as possible,” he said.
His comments underscore the loaded list of legislative tasks that lawmakers must accomplish in the coming weeks, while sorting through the nation’s finances.
As Congress holds votes for the first time in weeks on Monday, lawmakers are eyeing a critical one-month period until government funding is scheduled to expire. None of the annual appropriations bills made it through both houses, however, as the midterm cycle dominated much of the attention on Capitol Hill for months.
Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation outlining their funding plans, but the House is the only chamber to have passed any of its funding bills. The lower house approved six of 12 appropriations bills over the summer.
Bipartisan negotiations have hit a brick wall in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections in anticipation of which party will lead Congress next year, in addition to a list of longstanding disagreements on issues such as defense spending and various legislative riders.
At the same time, some conservatives in the House and Senate have increasingly pushed to delay new government spending until the new Congress is sworn in, hoping to rob Democrats of another chance. to put their mark on funding as they hold tight control of both chambers. .
The idea of a delay, however, has drawn resistance from other Republicans concerned about the impact the blockage could have on funding the party’s priorities.
“Part of the problem with our defense spending is the fact that they have uncertain appropriations and so we need some certainty, I think at least for the Pentagon, on what money they can actually spend and when he can spend it,” Sen. John Cornyn said. (R-Texas) told The Hill earlier this year.
In recent weeks, concerns have also been raised about the amount of aid the United States will provide to Ukraine in the upcoming Congress, especially as Republicans have faced internal divisions around the issue. .
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised last month that Congress would pass more aid to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion as part of its annual government funding legislation.
The pledge notably came on the heels of calls from House Progressives for a renewed effort to find a diplomatic solution to the war, but also came after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif. ), said the Republicans would not write “a blank check” to Kyiv if they seized a majority midterm.
At the same time, there is also a list of competing priorities for legislative time by the end of the year. This includes the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023, a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage, and a cannabis banking bill that leaders on both sides are working to push through. adopt in the coming weeks, among others.
Zach Moller, a former Democratic Senate budget aide, said he “may be the busiest lame duck” Congress has seen since the budget cliff of 2012, when the House and Senate had to consider a series of financial problems.
Schumer told reporters on Sunday that lawmakers were also considering a potential solution to the debt ceiling before the next session of Congress, as some House Republicans have already pushed to use the debt limit as a leverage point in discussions on spending next year.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated in June that Congress will likely need to take action on the debt ceiling no sooner than the third quarter of next year or risk a historic default.
“The debt ceiling is of course something that we have to deal with, and it is something that we will be looking at over the next few weeks,” Schumer said, while adding that he needed to speak to other leaders at this subject.
Getting Republicans on board with a debt ceiling hike could be a daunting task. The GOP saw deep divisions within its ranks last year amid a debt ceiling showdown with Democrats.
The upcoming retirements of the two top Senate negotiators, Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and senior member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), also add pressure. to the spending talks, Moller said.
Getting a deal will be tough, Moller said, but Leahy and Shelby are under pressure to come to an agreement before they leave.