As the deadline for Congress to agree on funding most government programs and agencies in the upcoming fiscal year draws near, the Senate has passed only three of the 12 appropriations bills in a joint ‘minibus’ package, leaving crucial decisions pending after the holiday recess.
In November, the Senate voted to extend funding through September 2024 for the Agriculture, military construction and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation bills. No funding bills have been considered since, even though the Appropriations Committee approved the 12 spending bills with mostly bipartisan support.
The House also passed a temporary extension of last year’s government funding levels, but with two separate deadlines: Passing appropriations bills for military construction and Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Energy and Water, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development by Jan. 19; the remaining eight appropriations bills must be worked out by Feb. 2.
The Senate adopted the same staggered deadlines for its spending bills.
Should lawmakers miss the initial Jan. 19 deadline, they’ll need a short-term continuing resolution (CR), essentially a temporary spending patch, to stretch funding until Sept. 30. Failure to do so would activate the Fiscal Responsibility Act, initiating a 1% across-the-board cut of more than $50 billion starting in April.
After the minibus vote, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, ‘The only way things get done in 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,’ he said at the time.
The House, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., approved an appropriations bill that significantly slashes the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget while pushing the Department of the Interior to ramp up energy and mineral production on public lands. However, Senate Democrats have signaled that the bill lacks sufficient support in the upper chamber to advance further.
‘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.
Prior to the holiday recess, some GOP lawmakers expressed concern that no appropriation bills were being brought to the floor. So far, Schumer still has not scheduled any votes on appropriations-related bills when the upper chamber returns on Jan. 8.
Instead, the first vote will be whether lawmakers will confirm John A. Kazen of Texas to be U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Texas. The Senate spent the last few weeks before the holiday recess confirming several of Biden’s judicial nominees.
‘The only thing you can come to conclusion is his goal is not to pass spending bills but to have an omnibus,’ Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital 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 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.
Fox News’ Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.