COMPASS: Congress Returns

September 15th, 2023

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

Both the House and the Senate returned to session this week, staring down three weeks until the September 30 funding deadline.

Back on August 21, the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) issued an official position, “No Security, No Funding.” As reported by HFC members, this was intended to guide the discussion ahead of Congress coming back into session. It was to strengthen conservatives hand in ensuring more responsible spending, and extracting clear policy wins to secure our nation.

Earlier this week, HFC and conservative allies, held a press conference to demand action on reigning in the woke and weaponized government. Their request of the Speaker is to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) or annual appropriations bills that contain policy riders that would end the woke and weaponized government and fix the porous southern border. As Congressman Andy Harris put it, “The Senate will have to decide whether or not they want a shutdown. If we send over a continuing resolution that has policy concessions the American people want: such as controlling the southern border and getting our fiscal house in order –I think it’s mighty presumptive for the Senate to decide they’re going to shut down the government rather than accept things the majority of Americans want.” On the other hand, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that he wants to have a short-term CR that avoids the holidays. The thinking is that additional time would help lock in some, if not all, of the annual appropriations bills.

But conservatives are opposed to this idea, due to the routine nature of short-term CRs leading right up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and then a massive Omnibus being put up for a vote. The President of the State Freedom Caucus Network, Andy Roth, remarked, “Regardless of your political affiliation, every American should be supporting the Freedom Caucus in their fight to cut spending. It’s insane that people are okay with kicking the can down the road rather than addressing a problem that is getting aggressively worse. Previous budget fights in DC were considered manageable because inflation was manageable. But not this time.”

As the Senate has demonstrated, their desire is to take up the House passed Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, but also add the Agriculture, and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bills. The catch – this violates a rule that governs appropriations debates in the Senate, Rule 16. Essentially, Rule 16 says the Senate cannot add additional legislative measures to appropriations bills that come from the House without Unanimous Consent (every Senator would have to allow that to happen and not object). Due to the desire from Senate conservatives to only consider the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, conservative Senators objected to considering the three bill package. As Senator Ron Johnson clearly stated, “I’m pushing for functionality to be returned to this chamber. What’s wrong with taking up just one bill? Pass it, move on to the next.” So, as a result of these conservatives objecting, the Senate is currently stuck on this legislation. They would need to ignore Rule 16 to continue, which would be seen by Senators as very aggressive, or they can vote to move off the bill. Senator Mike Lee took to Twitter to explain this technical process.

Late yesterday, reports surfaced about HFC trying to find a way forward, which was met with initial optimism. So as this week draws to a close, there are two weeks left before the September 30 window where funding is set to expire.

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