Congress inches toward year-end government funding deal

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Greg Nash
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) takes a break during the Senate Republican leadership elections on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

Congressional negotiators are making a dash to scrounge together a bipartisan deal on how to fund the federal government for fiscal 2023, with just weeks on the clock until a looming shutdown deadline.  

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told The Hill on Wednesday that top negotiators on both sides have begun exchanging top-line figures for a potential omnibus funding package, but he added “it’s still an open question” whether Congress will pass such a bill next month. 

“The appropriators are trading, now negotiating, and Shelby and Leahy are engaged, and we’ll see if they can strike a deal,” Thune said, referring to ongoing talks between Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Vice Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). 

Some negotiators say they’re encouraged by the progress, after funding talks slowed down in the weeks leading up to midterm elections amid anticipation over which party would lead Congress next year. But there is rising uncertainty over what funding bill Congress will manage to pass before the year’s end.

Lawmakers have until Dec. 16, when current funding is set to lapse, to pass legislation to keep the government running or risk shutdown. However, negotiators say it’s likely Congress will pass a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), punting the deadline through around Dec. 23, if talks require more time. 

But there is division within the GOP over whether to kick the deadline further to allow the next Congress, when the House will usher in a new Republican-led majority, more sway in setting the new funding levels.

Republicans pushing for a delay in new government spending until the next year say the move is necessary to deny Democrats potentially their last chance at shaping government spending after two years of narrow control in Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is among the senators behind the push, told The Hill on Tuesday that Congress should instead pass a CR that lasts “until early next year, so the newly elected Congress can enact the priorities that the voters elected them to enact.”

That idea has generated pushback from others in the party who say the strategy could hurt funding for key GOP priorities such as defense, however. Others opposing the idea have also cited the coming retirements of Leahy and Shelby as reasons for appropriators to finish their work this year to provide a fresh start for the next Congress.

Some Republicans have also been hesitant to share a position on whether they would support an omnibus in recent days, as they await more details from negotiations. However, Republicans are pressing for spending cuts outside of defense spending in any deal that leaders finalize to gain their support.

“It’s very important that we pass a budget that adequately funds defense, but represents overall a reduction in our spending growth and our debt accumulation,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told The Hill on Wednesday.

“The Democrats just spent this last year cramming through their domestic priorities at a tune of $700 billion that helped programs across the United States,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said Wednesday. “We voted no on that. It was all done through reconciliation and through their priorities. That should be considered when we take a look at, now, spending on national defense.”

Politico reported on Wednesday that House and Senate negotiators agreed on a budget top line of $847 billion for national defense as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023. 

Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) declined comment on the report in remarks to reporters on Wednesday. Shelby also wouldn’t comment on the figure when pressed on the report.

“We’re not completely done yet,” Reed told The Hill.

Tags appropriations John Thune John Thune omnibus Patrick Leahy Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby Richard Shelby Ted Cruz
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