Long September To-Do List for Congress

The House of Representatives and the Senate will face an extensive To-Do List when return to Washington, DC in the next few weeks. Approving a federal budget is at the top of the list.

Completing the list will be harder because the two houses of Congress are only in session together for three weeks before the start of the next federal fiscal year on October 1, 2023. The Senate has not passed any of the 12 appropriations bills that make up annual federal budget and the House has only passed one, the easiest bill to pass. The House and Senate funding committees did make good progress approving bills that can then go to the full House or Senate for approval. Committee approval is an important step since the committees are the place details of each particular bill are ironed out.

Because of the unlikelihood that Congress will be able to complete the federal budget before the 2024 Fiscal Year starts, contingency plans are already being discussed. In an effort to prevent a government shutdown, Congress regularly passes Continuing Resolutions (CR) which extend funding from the current fiscal year until funds for the next fiscal year can be signed into law.

Usually, CRs are passed by Congress with little to no controversy. This year, however, the House Republican Study Committee, a partisan committee that advises House Republicans on federal policies, is proposing that House Republicans use a CR to force Democrats to accept their policy initiatives.

Passage of the Republican laundry list is all but impossible. The probable goal of the proposal may be to force Democrats and the White House to take the blame for shutting down the federal government by opposing the policy provisions attached to the CR.

At the other end of the Capitol building, the two Senators in charge of the Senate Appropriations Committee are patting themselves on the back for reaching a bipartisan agreement to pass two funding bills thru the Senate.

Ultimate completion of the budget for the whole federal government will not be easily accomplished. In many cases, the draft bills written by the appropriations committees differ wildly from each other, making compromise harder. Some of the bills, particularly the bill that funds the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), also include ideologically-based policy restrictions.(see Grimm NIH, NSF Budget News, Including Policy Landmines)

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org