Last week, Congress avoided a government shutdown with two days to spare. And then both houses of Congress recessed for a Thanksgiving break.
The week before last, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) offered a stopgap Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government past November 17. Speaker Johnson’s CR has staggered deadlines for different government funding bills. Four of the bills (Energy and Water, Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD) will expire on January 19 while the other eight will expire on February 2. Originally, many Senators and the White House were skeptical of his bill, but ultimately agreed to support it to keep the government open and because there were no deep spending cuts.
In the House, Johnson faced opposition for his plan from the most conservative members of the House Republican Conference, so in the end he had to rely heavily on Democratic votes to approve the bill. The bill passed 336-95 on November 15, with 93 Republicans voting no. A few weeks ago, a similar vote with a bipartisan majority led to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster, but for the moment, Republicans are still giving Speaker Johnson some breathing space.
President Joe Biden signed the CR before the November 17 deadline. Left hanging was the Biden administration’s requested funding for Israel, Ukraine and disaster relief, and it remains unclear how Congress will resolve the significant differences that still persist between the House and Senate, as well as between Republicans and Democrats, on numerous spending issues.
Despite the passage of the CR, the discord among House Republicans continued last week. While Speaker Johnson’s stated goal was to complete action on all 12 appropriations bills, two appropriations bills, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Financial Services-General Government funding bills, failed last week because of GOP splits.
Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Bill
On March 9, the Biden administration requested $886 billion in Fiscal Year 2024 budget authority for defense, including $842 billion for the Pentagon, a 3.2% increase over the enacted Fiscal Year 2023 level, plus $32.8 billion in atomic energy related defense spending. That number includes the request for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which builds nuclear weapons. As part of the request, the Pentagon asked for $15.3 billion to fund the U.S. military’s presence in the Pacific, part of the Biden administrations pivot to the China challenge. The Council’s sister organization, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, prepared a detailed analysis.
The House completed action on its NDAA, H.R. 2670, on July 14. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a deal with the most conservative members of his caucus in return for their votes on final passage. The deal permitted votes on a variety of amendments that attacked abortion and healthcare access, gay and transgender people in the military, education about racism in the country, and diversity in the military.
Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), joined by the House Democratic leadership and ranking members of the House Armed Services Subcommittees, organized Democrats, most of whom had voted for the bill in the past, to vote no on the bill. The bill, usually approved on a broad bipartisan basis, passed 219-210, with four Democrats voting for the bill and four Republicans voting against.
Only two amendments pertaining to nuclear weapons were permitted floor votes. An amendment from Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to prohibit the use of funds for the sustainment of the B83-1 gravity bomb was defeated 198-217. An amendment from Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to strike a prohibition on the reduction of the total number of U.S. ICBMs failed 160-266.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up its defense bill on July 27.
The Senate passed a much more typical, bipartisan NDAA in July, shortly before the Senate recessed for August. Staff of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are likely to begin discussing the less controversial aspects of the NDAA in the near term. It remains to be seen how Congress will address the hot-button provisions added to appease the most conservative House Republicans on the House floor.
On September 30, with hours to go before the end of the fiscal year, the House and Senate agreed to pass a Continuing Resolution drafted by Speaker McCarthy that keeps the government open for 45 days until November 17.
The successful move came after failing to win approval of another version of the Continuing Resolution that was filled with red meat for hard-right conservatives — including a 30 percent cut in most appropriations and adding new asylum and immigration restrictions. The measure was defeated 198-232 with 21 hard right Republicans voting no.
Hours later, the Senate, which had been working on its own Continuing Resolution, decided to adopt the House measure by a vote of 88-9. One sticking point: the measure failed to include any additional support for Ukraine.
On November 15, Congress passed a second CR funding the government until early 2024. This effort, the brainchild of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), set up two separate funding deadlines. Four of the bills (Energy and Water, Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD) will expire on January 19 while the other eight will expire on February 2.
Authorization to Use Military Force
On March 8, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 to repeal 2002 and 1991 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, that launched President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Before the final vote, the Committee rejected 13-8 a Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) amendment that would specify that the U.S. has the authority to attack Iran. An amendment Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) amendment to also repeal the 2001 AUMF — which came in response to 9/11— was rejected 20-1.
On March 16, Senate took a proceduralvote of 68-27 to advance the repeal with 19 Republicans joining Democrats in support, strongly indicating the measure will pass the Senate.
On March 29, the Senate passed S. 316 to repeal the 1991 and 2022 AUMFs against Iraq by a vote of 66-30.
The Senate rejected six Republican amendments to the bill:
Johnson (R-WI) amendment on using force against Iran failed 47-49.
Ricketts (R-NE) amendment to require the President to consult Israel, Iran and other countries on the AUMF repeal failed 31-62.
Cruz (R-TX) amendment on the President’s use of force against Iran failed 41-55.
Sullivan (R-AK) amendment on responding to threats from Iran failed 38-57.
Scott (R-FL) amendment to set up a joint select committee on Afghanistan failed 33-62.
Hawley (R-MO) amendment to establish Special Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance failed 26-68.
The bill next goes to the House, where Republicans haven given mixed signals about their next steps on the legislation.
Aid to Ukraine
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine less than one year ago, Congress has approved more than $113 billion of aid and military assistance to support the Ukrainian government and allied nations. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 omnibus appropriations package included an additional $47.3 billion of emergency funding to provide humanitarian, military, and economic assistance to Ukraine on top of the $65.8 billion of funding already approved in three other emergency funding packages enacted by Congress. Of the $113 billion approved in 2022, about three-fifths ($67 billion) has been allocated toward defense needs and the remaining two-fifths ($46 billion) to nondefense concerns such as general Ukrainian government aid, economic support, and aid for refugee resettlement. [Source: Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget]
Raising the Debt Ceiling
The negotiations between President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) produced a last-minute agreement only days before the United States government would have hit the debt limit. Majorities of both parties in the House voted for the agreement in the 314-117 vote on May 31. The Senate cleared the deal the next day by a vote of 63-36.
Before the final vote, the Senate defeated 11 amendments. Two of the amendments in the Senate were on defense spending, the first an amendment by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to increase defense caps for the next two years, which was defeated 49-48 with 60 votes required for passage. A second amendment by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to reject cuts in defense spending if Congress failed to approve the 12 appropriation bills by the beginning of the next fiscal year failed 48-51, again needing 60 votes to be adopted.
U.S. Troops Overseas
On March 8, a resolution offered by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to force the withdrawal of American troops from Syria was defeated 103-321, with close to equal number of Democrats and Republicans voting aye.
On April 27, the House defeated a resolution put forward by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) 102-321 that would have required the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia. The resolution was supported by 52 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations Bill
On June 22, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations Bill by a vote of 34-24. Click here for a Committee summary of the bill.
On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations bill by a vote of 27-1. Click here for a Committee summary of the bill.
On September 28, the House passed its Fiscal Year Defense Appropriations bill by a 218-210 vote. An overview of the bill is available here.
Fiscal Year 2024 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill
On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2024 bill for the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs by a vote of 32 to 27. Click here for the Committee summary of the bill.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on July 20 by a 27-2 vote. A committee summary can be found here.
The House passed its Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on September 28 in a 216-212 vote. An overview of the bill can be found here.
Fiscal Year 2024 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill
On June 22, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2024 Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 34-24. Click here for a Committee summary of the bill.
In a 29-0 vote on July 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Energy and Water Development Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill, which provides $58.095 billion in total funding for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and independent agencies. Click here for a Committee summary of the bill.
Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations Bills
On June 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill by a vote of 34-27. Click here for a Committee summary of the bill.
On June 22, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2024 by a 28-0 vote. A summary of the bill is here.
On July 27, the House passed its Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill in a 219-211 vote. An overview of the bill can be found here.
Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Resolution
The Senate annual budget resolutions, which used to launch the budget process each year, may have gone the way of the dodo bird. However, the House GOP has promised a balanced budget resolution to cut federal deficits and spending, but not until May at the earliest.
Congressional Recess Schedule
November 16–28 — House out of session (Thanksgiving)
November 17–27 — Senate out of session (Thanksgiving)
December 14–January 9 — House out of session (Christmas)