Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Friday, December 9, 2022
Congress’ Final Push on Omnibus Bill for FY 2023

Congress is working to push through bills before the 118th begins on January 3, 2023. Additionally, it has become clear in the Senate that Democrats will control 51 seats after the results of the Georgia run-off on December 6. Meanwhile in the House, Republicans have obtained 222 of the 218 seats they needed to take the majority position in the 118th Congress. These slim margins mean votes from the opposing party will be needed to pass bills, especially in the Senate which requires 60 votes. A divided government means it will be much more difficult to pass legislation next year.

Now Congress is working on the details for a framework for a conference between the House and Senate to finalize the 12 fiscal year (FY) 2023 spending bills as an omnibus package. The expectation is that the number for defense spending will have to increase as non-defense spending proponents lose ground to satisfy Republicans. This has happened in previous omnibus negotiations. Before December 16 when the continuing resolution expires, details should be firming up for legislative items that Congress will prioritize to be funded beyond the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—a must-pass bill each year. Immigration provisions exempting STEM graduates from caps could take a ride on the NDAA.

Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, wants to include $9.5 billion in additional emergency public health funding for the COVID response in the omnibus but will have to contend with getting enough Republicans on the bandwagon to reach 60 votes in the Senate to support such funding. Republicans have not been enthusiastic about this additional money and there is still much doubt that additional funds will be forthcoming. Other items that could be in the FY 2023 omnibus are Ukraine and Florida hurricane relief monies. The administration is also trying to finalize Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) authorization legislation so the new agency’s roles, responsibilities, and location are clear. The longer there is a lack of clarity on ARPA-H for congressional members, the harder it will be to separate it from the National Institutes of Health budget.

As for discussion regarding lifting the debt limit during the lame-duck session, there is not enough time to do a reconciliation package and move it through the House and Senate. This item will be a leverage point in the 118th Congress to achieve concessions from Democrats.