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The U.S. Senate is on a collision course with the House of Representatives amid a flurry of spending bills and no agreements in sight as another deadline looms.
Nearing the end of the fiscal year, lawmakers must decide how to fund various government programs and agencies. However, so far, the Senate has only approved three of the twelve appropriations bills included in a joint “minibus” package, so important decisions will have to wait until after the holiday break.
The Senate voted in November to keep the Agriculture, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation bills funded until September 2024. Despite the Appropriations Committee’s approval of the twelve spending bills with largely bipartisan support, no new funding bills have been considered since.
The House has also extended the government funding levels from last year but with two deadlines: the first is Jan. 19, when the spending bills for military construction and VA, agriculture, energy, water, transportation, and HUD are due; the second is Feb. 2, when the remaining eight spending bills must be resolved.
Similarly, the Senate’s spending bills now have staggered due dates, Fox News noted.
A short-term continuing resolution (CR), which is like a temporary spending patch, will be necessary if lawmakers fail to meet the initial Jan. 19 deadline to extend funding until Sept. 30. Doing otherwise would trigger the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which would lead to a 1% reduction in spending, or over $50 billion, beginning in April.
After the minibus vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The only way things get done in a divided government is bipartisanship. The American people won’t support the futile exercise of passing partisan, extremist legislation that has no chance of becoming law, which is what the House is doing right now.”
Under House Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that calls on the Department of the Interior to boost energy and mineral extraction on public lands while drastically cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Democrats in the Senate have made it clear that they don’t think the measure has enough votes to move forward.
“Their appropriations bills are loaded with poison pills that they know are not going to be accepted in this chamber or by Democrats in their chamber,” Schumer said on the floor last month.
It was a source of concern for several Republican lawmakers that no appropriation bills were being considered before the holiday break. There are still no votes on appropriations-related bills scheduled for the upper chamber’s return on January 8, according to Schumer.
John A. Kazen, a Texan, is being considered for confirmation as a United States district judge for the Southern District of Texas. In the weeks leading up to the Christmas break, the Senate confirmed multiple judges nominated by Biden.
“The only thing you can conclude is that his goal is not to pass spending bills but to have an omnibus,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told Fox News in an interview before the holiday recess.
Other government agencies that still need funding in the queue include Homeland Security, Energy and Water, Labor and Education, and others. The Senate previously approved a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill for government programs throughout 2023.
Senators will have their work cut out for them when they return on Jan. 8 because they still have to hash out a border security measure that will be ingested into the multibillion-dollar national supplemental security package that would send aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
The Democratic-controlled Senate, under the leadership of Schumer, has only been able to approve three of the 12 appropriations bills as a result of the impending deadline for Congress to pass several spending bills that fund government agencies and programs.
That means there will be critical spending bills waiting for lawmakers when they return from their holiday recess.