US House Republicans clear hurdle on 2024 spending bill

US House Republicans clear hurdle on 2024 spending bill

The Looming Showdown: U.S. House Begins Debating Fiscal 2024 Spending Bills

US House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives, currently under Republican control, has initiated debates on the first of the twelve fiscal 2024 spending bills. This development marks a crucial step towards a looming showdown with the Democratic-led Senate, potentially leading to a government shutdown in the upcoming autumn.

In a largely partisan vote of 217-206, the House adopted a measure that opened debate on a military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill. Significantly, Republican leaders appear to be close to reaching an agreement with hardline conservatives who have been demanding cuts that would cap next year’s overall spending at the level seen in fiscal 2022, which amounts to $1.47 trillion.

This push for spending reductions by the hardline conservatives, including members of the influential House Freedom Caucus, has prompted Republican leaders to seek assurances on spending before progressing with appropriations bills. Andy Ogles, a member of the Freedom Caucus, expressed cautious optimism while stating that the two sides were working on finalizing a deal. However, he refrained from providing further details on the ongoing negotiations.

An important factor in this process is determining how to secure assurances that the agreed-upon spending cuts will actually be achieved. While Andy Ogles remains hopeful regarding the progress, Kevin McCarthy’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Following the successful adoption of the military construction bill, the House is expected to vote on its passage later this week. Subsequently, attention could turn to a second appropriations bill that aims to fund agriculture programs, rural development initiatives, and the Food and Drug Administration.

However, the agriculture bill may face resistance from more moderate Republican lawmakers, including some who oppose its restrictions on abortion services. Representative Don Bacon also expressed concerns that last-minute changes resulting in further spending cuts could jeopardize the bill’s support from the center.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders perceive this week’s votes as an opportunity to gain leverage against the Democratic-led Senate. Both chambers are expected to pass their separate spending legislation before attempting to reconcile differences and reach a compromise that can be sent to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

The impending deadline for funding the government is September 30, which means failure to act in time could trigger a partial government shutdown. However, the House and Senate find themselves at odds due to the hardline conservatives’ insistence on reduced spending. Currently, the two chambers are at least $120 billion apart, with Senate appropriators aiming at the previously agreed fiscal 2024 discretionary spending of $1.59 trillion, as negotiated by McCarthy and Biden in June.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise suggested that negotiations between the two chambers might commence during the annual August recess, with the aim of reaching an agreement in September.

In response to the House Republicans’ spending bills, President Joe Biden has vowed to veto them if they make it to his desk, stating that they deviate from the agreed-upon deal.

Notably, the military construction and veterans bill proposes $155.7 billion in discretionary spending, specifically designated for military construction and veteran’s affairs. Furthermore, the health and agriculture bill sets aside $25.3 billion, although this figure incorporates approximately $7.5 billion redirected from Democratic programs.

Democrats rejected the military construction bill, arguing that it would severely cut important programs and introduce a range of divisive cultural issues to the military and veterans.

Democratic Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez stressed the bill’s potential consequences, stating, “It would prohibit training that helps people from different backgrounds work together, that addresses the inequalities that still exist in our military. It would allow homophobia to run rampant.”

The ongoing debates and negotiations between the House and Senate will significantly impact the nation’s fiscal policies for the upcoming year. The final outcome remains uncertain, but lawmakers have a limited timeframe to find common ground and pass legislation to fund the government before risking a shutdown. The partisan tension and ideological differences surrounding spending priorities will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the final outcome.