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September 25, 2023

What to expect in Washington (September 25)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed hope over the weekend that regular-order consideration of appropriations bills on Department of Defense, State, Agriculture, and Homeland Security spending beginning on Tuesday, plus the impending government funding deadline, could propel progress on a continuing resolution (CR) funding patch. The Speaker pitched a 45-day CR through mid-November during a Saturday conference call with members, arguing that would allow time for the House to consider full-year spending bills, Punchbowl News reported. Bloomberg cited Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) as saying a CR could run from two weeks to 60 days. There will be a government shutdown at the end of the week if both chambers don't pass the same government funding patch CR by September 30.

"When it gets crunchtime, people that have been holding off all this time blaming everybody else will finally hopefully move," Speaker McCarthy said Saturday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The story said, "GOP leaders know that time has run out to pass all 12 annual appropriations bills individually, so they are pleading with Republican colleagues in their narrow 221-212 majority to sign on to a stopgap spending measure to avoid a shutdown. Leaders are effectively putting forward the four funding bills as a good faith down payment to dissidents … The gamble that House Republican leaders are making this week is that teeing up votes on four of their spending bills will build trust among holdouts."

"Republicans effectively conceded that the [4-bill] exercise was mostly for show, saying they hoped that advancing the measures would show 'good faith' that could ultimately persuade Republican hard-liners to back a measure to keep the government open temporarily," the New York Times said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took a procedural step on a bill that can be used as a vehicle for a CR that would likely keep spending at the current FY2023 level and provide Ukraine and disaster funding. The chamber's next vote is at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, on a procedural motion related to the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act H.R. 3935. The Saturday Washington Post reported the Senate CR "will probably extend current government funding until November or December, include an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration bill, which expires at the end of the fiscal year, and potentially include an extension of the farm bill." Punchbowl News said the CR process will be lengthy in the Senate, perhaps taking until Saturday, because Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) won't consent to expediting the process if Ukraine funding is included.

The rule providing for consideration of the DOD spending bill failed twice in House votes last week. After a conservative holdout, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), said her opposition was over funding for Ukraine, Speaker McCarthy initially agreed to remove the $300 million and vote on it separately but later reversed course and said that approach was too difficult. Another 'no' vote on the DOD rule, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), has maintained he will not support a CR. Though he didn't oppose the rule, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) has also let it be known he won't vote in favor of a CR. Speaker McCarthy can only afford to lose four Republican votes in a party-line bill given the current ratio of 221-212, where Republicans hold nine more seats than Democrats.

The Washington Post reported, "While some hard-right lawmakers have tried to broker deals to fund the government in the short-term — most notably Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (Pa.), Chip Roy (Tex.), and Byron Donalds (Fla.) — many holdouts remain completely opposed to any stopgap bill, angry that the conference did not start voting on the full fiscal year's spending appropriation bills earlier. At the same time, though, the far-right rebels have also inhibited that process by blocking debate on two such bills in the last several months."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a focus of the CR opposition, said on CNN September 22, "I agree with many of my colleagues who say that if Speaker McCarthy embraces a clean continuing resolution to continue the spending policies of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, that would most likely trigger a motion to vacate," referring to the House procedural mechanism for ousting a speaker from the position. On Fox Sunday Morning Futures, Gaetz noted that he voted for the rule to proceed to the DOD bill, and that he wants the bill to pass. He said, "Don't give Kevin McCarthy credit for the fact that we're moving onto these four appropriations bills. That was the deal that House conservatives foisted upon Kevin McCarthy, when he couldn't just move the big spending bills without moving the bills that cut spending. Kevin wants it in one big up-or-down vote, keep the government open, shut it down. I'm saying single-subject spending bills."

Noting historical precedents for keeping the government open, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) said on CBS Face the Nation, "It's unconscionable to think that Republicans in the House are going to allow the government to shut down under the circumstances we're under today. I mean there's always been bipartisan support for stop-gap spending bills."

There have been conflicting reports about whether the IRS will stop working in a shutdown. A September 18 Bloomberg Daily Tax Report (DTR) story said the IRS likely will use funds from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which allocated $80 billion in funding to the agency that was subsequently cut back, to remain fully operational if the government shuts down. However, later reports suggested the ability to use IRA funds may be very limited and cited the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) as saying IRS may furlough some workers.

Hearings — The Senate Finance Committee has noticed a hearing for Thursday, September 28 (at 10 a.m.) to consider nominations including Marjorie Rollinson to be Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and an Assistant General Counsel in the Department of the Treasury.

The Senate Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing, "Medicare Forever: Protecting Seniors by Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share," for Wednesday, September 27 (at 10 a.m.).


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