Congress confronts funding deadline

The Capitol is shown at sunset
Peter Afriyie
The Capitol, around sunset, on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

Congress is staring down a critical stretch of time to cinch a funding bill to prevent a government shutdown before September comes to a close.

Lawmakers are already armed with a list of political land mines they have to carefully navigate — from an energy permitting proposal to Ukraine and COVID-19 funding — or risk blowing past the Sept. 30 deadline. 

They are again this year expected to pass a continuing resolution (CR), which would allow the government to remain funded at the previous fiscal year’s spending levels to buy enough time for a deal.

So far, the House has passed six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for fiscal 2023, which begins Oct. 1, but leaders have yet to indicate when they’ll bring the remaining funding bills to the floor or if it will happen at all.

Funding talks are moving even slower in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority and need GOP support to pass such measures. 

One issue that could stand in the way of a government funding bill has to do with a fast-tracking federal energy permitting agreement reached by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other Democratic leaders in exchange for Manchin’s support of a long-sought reconciliation bill that passed over the summer. 

A potential standoff could come in the form of Democratic leaders in the House facing pressure from liberals who are demanding the permitting agreement be kept out of a CR, arguing that it would weaken environmental reviews.

And while a proposal by Manchin, aimed at speeding up energy projects that could set up a two-year maximum timeline for environmental reviews, enjoys some GOP support, it’s not guaranteed Republicans would vote to pass it as part of a CR.

As Republicans railed against a Democratic effort to pass their signature party-line reconciliation bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, over the summer, a few also vowed to withhold support for a short-term CR including any so-called sweeteners for Manchin.

In comments to The Hill on Tuesday, Manchin pushed back on claims he struck a “side deal.”

“There was never a side deal. It was all part of it, it just didn’t fit in reconciliation,” Manchin said.

Even if Democrats get the entire caucus to support the CR, 10 GOP votes are needed to bypass a filibuster.

Other funding issues could also sideline government funding proposals.

A White House request for more than $47 billion in emergency funding could make efforts to reach a bipartisan deal on a short-term funding bill more difficult. The request calls for $13.7 billion to help address the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as funding to bolster the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, monkeypox and disaster relief.

Republicans have shown support in the past for Ukraine funding and disaster relief. However, previous Democratic-led pushes for coronavirus funding have hit roadblocks amid staunch GOP opposition for the lack of specified plans to pay for it. There has also been pushback by some vulnerable Democrats who saw certain proposals posing risks for winning back competitive seats in their primaries.

Adding to the pressure in the Democratic-led Congress includes an end-of-month deadline for the Food and Drug Administration’s user fee program, as well as a shortage of legislative time in the current session to tackle outstanding priorities such as protecting same-sex marriage. 

Tags Joe Manchin Ukraine
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