House Advances Four Spending Bills As McCarthy Vows Funding Stopgap

Speaker Kevin McCarthy united his caucus in considering four new appropriations bills, which he hopes to leverage in passing a Continuing Resolution which will fund the Federal Government beyond the current September 30th deadline…

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he House of Representatives passed a procedural vote allowing consideration of four spending bills totaling nearly $1.1 trillion, which marks a significant step toward the completion of the appropriations process just five days before the end of the fiscal year.

Moments after the Sept. 26 vote, Mr. McCarthy said he would bring a continuing resolution (CR) to the House floor by the end of the week to temporarily extend government funding as the budgeting and appropriations process continues.Both actions set up a conflict with the Senate, which passed a procedural vote to advance its own CR for consideration barely an hour ahead of the House’s action.

The Procedure

The House’s vote was a step in the process known as regular order, which allows spending bills, in particular, to be debated and voted on individually, rather than being lumped into one large bill.

“We have four bills before us here in the House of Representatives, four bills that, when combined with the [Military Construction and Veterans Affairs] bill that we passed in July, would fund upward of 75 percent of our discretionary spending of government,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said when debating the bill on the House floor.

“The fact is, the four bills that we have before us represent this body doing its job.” Fiscal hawks on the Republican side had twice prevented the Defense Bill from being heard to ensure that regular order would be followed.

The bills put forward for debate were the Department of Homeland Security at $91.5 billion, the Department of State at $52.5 billion, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration at $25.3 billion, and the Department of Defense at $886.3 billion.

Debate on the Agriculture bill began shortly after the 216–212 procedural vote concluded.“This rule moves us on to single-subject spending bills, and this is the only way to liberate this House and this country from the scourge of governing by continuing resolution and omnibus legislation,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said during the debate.

Debate: Shutdown, Cuts & Debt

House Democrats marshaled two arguments in an attempt to block the four bills from coming to the floor.

First, they argued that the appropriations process cannot be completed in five days, making a government shutdown all but inevitable. They urged that the House instead adopt the CR under consideration in the Senate.

“The Senate has given us a way forward. We should take it,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). He then chided the Republican minority for waiting so long to take action on the 2024 spending plan.

“When my friends say that we need more time to figure all this out, what have you been doing?” Mr. McGovern said. “Enough of this nonsense. Enough of the talk about shutdowns.  Work together in a bipartisan way … the way that our constituents expect us to work to get things done.”

Democrats also criticized the Republican spending proposals for cutting programs that low-income people depend on as inhumane and counterproductive.

Mr. McGovern said:

“Cutting funding for WIC [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] means more malnourished babies. Malnourished babies end up needing expensive health care. Who pays the bill? Medicaid. The taxpayers. In fact, according to USDA, every dollar spent on WIC means $3 in taxpayers’ savings,”

Democrats also saw the proposals as negotiating in bad faith on the part of Republicans.

“We had a deal,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (R-N.Y.), referring to the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed in June with bipartisan support. “The Speaker of the House and the President of the United States already agreed in the spring on what the numbers would be … It’s already been done. We’re here now because of the upheaval of the MAGA Republicans.”

Republicans defended the bills as commonsense steps toward restoring the country to fiscal stability.

“Our deficit spending is indefensible,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.).

“We find ourselves at a tipping point. In the last 10 years, we have spent $3 trillion just on interest on the debt. And the next 10 years … we will spend $10 trillion. For that money our country gets nothing. No sailor, no soldier, no safety net … Business as usual is unacceptable. A yes vote acknowledges that and moves us in the right direction.”

Competing Continuing Resolutions

The House CR introduced later in the week will likely be a version of H.R. 5525, Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, which was first presented on Sept. 17 by a coalition of Republican members from the House Freedom and Main Street Caucuses.

The measure would fund the government through Oct. 31 but impose an overall 8 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending. The bill also incorporates nearly all of H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which was passed by the House but not considered by the Senate.

Republicans are leveraging the border security provisions in advocating for the CR. “I think it’s incumbent upon the president to sit down and work on securing this border,” Mr. McCarthy told The Epoch Times. “There are a number of Democratic leaders across the country that are crying out for it, that are saying their state is in a state of emergency.”

“All the President has to do is call us up. Let’s go sit down and get this done before the end of the week. He changed … how this border is happening. He can change it back,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters.

The Senate’s stopgap funding bill would continue funding the federal government at its current level until Nov. 17. It would also add $6.15 billion in funding for Ukraine and $5.99 billion for disaster relief.

President Joe Biden had requested that Congress approve a supplemental funding request for both items but in much higher amounts—$45 billion for Ukraine and $12 billion for disaster relief.

A number of House Republicans have objected to the Senate lumping funding for Ukraine together with domestic spending needs. Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) approved of the Senate’s bill, Mr. McCarthy called that provision “wrong.”

“They’re picking Ukraine over Americans,” Mr. McCarthy said, pointing to a string of recent emergencies including the wildfire in Hawaii, train derailments, and the border crisis. “What Russia has done is wrong,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine. “And we can defend [against] that. … Why can’t we deal with the border and our emergencies too?”

Mr. McCarthy said he expected debate on the four appropriations bills to be concluded on Sept. 28, paving the way for the CR to be considered on Sept. 29.✪

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