As the first quarter of the 2024 fiscal year concludes, Congress is seemingly resorting to extending temporary funding solutions.
On January 16, the Senate moved forward with Congress’ third stopgap spending bill in the last four months, casting a 68–3 procedural vote to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Continued reliance on continuing resolutions
This interim measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), was agreed upon by leaders from both congressional chambers and the White House, with the bill’s text unveiled over the weekend.
The CR proposes to extend deadlines for Congress to pass two sets of annual appropriations bills to March 1 and March 8.
This comes after the “laddered” CR passed in November, which sets current funding to expire on January 19 and February 2.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) emphasized the urgency, saying, “The focus of this week will be to pass this extension as quickly as we can.”
Schumer and Johnson stress bipartisan effort for timely continuing resolution
He added, “Time is of the essence,” acknowledging the approaching first deadline. Schumer expressed hope for a “clean” CR, contingent on bipartisan cooperation.
“You can’t pass these bills without support from Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate,” he remarked.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) echoed Schumer’s sentiments in a statement on January 14, asserting that the CR “is required to complete what House Republicans are working hard to achieve: an end to governance by omnibus, meaningful policy wins, and better stewardship of American tax dollars.”
Congressional leaders agree on $1.59 trillion spending cap
The two leaders have settled on a $1.59 trillion spending cap for the fiscal year, a figure previously agreed upon by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden.
The latest agreement modifies the previous deal by incorporating an additional $10 billion in IRS personnel cuts, alongside $886 billion in defense spending and $6.1 billion in COVID-19 spending cuts.
However, the deal has faced criticism from House Republican hardliners, who argue that the actual top-line figure is closer to $1.66 trillion when discretionary spending is included.
“This is what surrender looks like,” the House Freedom Caucus stated in a post on X.
House Freedom Caucus and McCarthy’s resignation
Representative Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has openly criticized the tentative spending deal and the notion of another stopgap bill.
He expressed his views on social media, lamenting the two-decade trend of Congress relying on CRs instead of passing appropriation bills.
“Republicans should be united in reducing spending and refusing to repeat the failures of the past. The House majority has to matter!” he wrote.
Amid these tensions, Kevin McCarthy, who resigned from Congress, was removed from his speakership position in September.
Stability in Congressional leadership amid fiscal responsibility challenges
Although Republicans claim a repeat of this incident is unlikely, the same rules allowing a single member to force a vote on the matter remain in place.
Despite speculation about his speakership’s stability, Johnson has dismissed such concerns, confidently telling reporters, “I’m not concerned about that.”
This ongoing scenario in Congress highlights the challenges of balancing fiscal responsibility with the need to maintain government operations.