The appropriations process has barely seen any progress as Congress barrels toward the Nov. 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
The House is in a state of paralysis as Republicans spar over who should be speaker, a dispute that has left the chamber unable to govern for three weeks. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) ouster marked the first time in U.S. history that a speaker was removed from office, and the attempts to replace him have supplanted appropriations bills as the leading priority.
Both chambers have less than a month to pass their 12 respective appropriations bills and deliver them to the conference committee, where legislation is sent to sort out differences.
In the Senate, members on both sides have urged Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to begin bringing up the bills, all of which were approved with bipartisan support in the Senate Appropriations Committee, for floor votes.
An agreement was reached with Appropriations Committee members last week on amendment vote thresholds for the minibus, which combines three of the 12 appropriations bills, one blockade standing in the package’s way. Leadership also reached a deal with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on his minibus amendment on gun access for military veterans, which Schumer had called a “poison pill” that his members had “serious objections” to.
Still, a vote on the package has not yet been scheduled, as numerous committee members predicted to the Washington Examiner would have happened by Monday.
In the meantime, the Senate has made Israel and organizing a supplemental spending package for national security its top priority over the coming week.
Democratic and GOP leadership continue to hash out the contours of the supplemental bill, though those involved on both sides have said it will include four tranches: three aid bills for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel and a border security measure.
A bipartisan coalition of ten senators is also absent from the chamber for a congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt. The group, consisting of five Democrats and five Republicans, will return to Washington on Tuesday when the Senate will convene for weekly conference luncheons and a vote on one of President Joe Biden’s nominees.
Senators have argued that moving on the appropriations and supplemental packages would place pressure on the House to find a solution to the speaker crisis and, thus, bring leaders to the table to reach consensus on government funding levels and a defense bill.
Timelines remain unclear for the Senate to pass the minibus, the rest of its appropriations bills, and the defense supplemental, which is still being crafted.