Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Shutdown Looms Closer, Agencies Prepare

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has precious little time to complete the 12 funding bills for fiscal year (FY) 2024 on the House floor before September 30 when FY 2023 ends. Over the weekend of September 23-24, further cuts were made to funding bills such as the one that funds agricultural research. These massive spending cuts amount to as much as 27 percent, compared to FY 2023. Votes are expected on these cuts in the House this week.

A continuing resolution (CR) is also in the works, with the shortest lasting only 14 days likely followed by another until November. With the House expected to be out the first two full weeks of October due to foreign congressional delegation meetings expected during this time that will take members away from D.C., the pressure is mounting to come to some resolution that will not cause government operations to halt. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released the text of a CR that runs until November 17 for the Senate to pass before September 30 and plans to send it to the House as a means of increasing the pressure to have this bill brought to the House floor for a vote.

To prepare for a shutdown, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circular A-11, sec. 124.3 states that one week prior to the expiration of appropriations bills, OMB will communicate to senior agency officials that should be reviewing and updating their orderly shutdown plans. Agencies must be prepared to implement contingency plans, but they must wait until the OMB director directs agencies to operate in accordance with their contingency plans. A White House 11-page FAQ document, updated on September 22, also provides answers to frequently asked questions during a lapse in appropriations with a view toward allowing funded and excepted activities to continue in an effective manner. There is also a Congressional Research Service Report R47693, dated September 14, which provides further details such as what happens to a particular agency or program during a shutdown.

House appropriators are expected to mark up the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) and the Commerce, Justice and Science and Related Agencies bills this week, the same week when the Agriculture, Defense, Homeland, and State-Foreign Operations funding bills are on the House floor under one rule with individual votes for each bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate proceeded in an orderly fashion for its first procedural vote on a package—the FY 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bills on September 12. The Senate voted 85-12 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed on the $279 billion package. However, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) obstructed the unanimous consent process with his objection to bundling multiple bills together and setting up votes on 10 amendments. He wants to see a vote on Sen. James Lankford’s (R-OK) legislation that would allow an automatic CR every two weeks until appropriations are enacted. This would be an amendment to the Senate’s three-bill minibus—the first three appropriations bills for FY 2024 to be brought to the Senate floor.