Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are moving forward in the Appropriations process, releasing text and holding mark-ups for several of the Appropriations bills over the past couple of weeks, including the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies bill, which is covered below. Leaders of both Committees have made a commitment to move the bills through regular order, meaning that each bill will be considered and voted on separately. However, the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate are not on the same page about the funding allocations for the bills. The debt ceiling agreement that passed earlier this month set top-line spending at just about level funding for the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) bills and a 3% increase for Defense funding. The NDD funding level in the agreement is significantly higher than in the Republican-passed debt limit bill, which would have capped total funding at FY 2022 levels.
On June 12, 2023, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) released a statement about House Appropriations markups, saying, “[t]he Fiscal Responsibility Act set a topline spending cap – a ceiling, not a floor – for Fiscal Year 2024 bills. That is why I will use this opportunity to markup appropriations bills that limit new spending to the Fiscal Year 2022 topline level.” The House’s 302b Suballocations (which determine the top levels for each of the twelve Appropriations bills) were approved on June 15. Because the House rules allow bills to be passed with a simple majority, it is likely that Republicans will be able to pass these bills, which do not honor the agreement made in the debt-ceiling negotiations, with party-line votes.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved their 302b Suballocations on June 22, which align with the debt ceiling deal’s spending caps. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), said, “I am going to be fighting to protect key investments in families across the country and in our country’s future. And I am going to ensure we adhere to the deal that President Biden and Speaker McCarthy negotiated and Congress passed just a few weeks ago. That includes making full use of all the resources in the agreement, honoring its terms, and working at every step of the way to lessen the blow of the cuts and caps.” Although the Senate is Democrat-led, appropriations bills need to pass with a 60-vote majority to bypass the filibuster; therefore, the Senate bills will need to be drafted and passed in a bipartisan manner.
While both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are likely to write bills that can pass their respective chambers, there may be problems when it comes time to reconcile each set of bills into a single bill that can pass in both the House and the Senate. Given how far apart some of the allocations are, it is expected that negotiations between House Republicans and Senate Democrats will be difficult. The debt ceiling agreement also stipulated that if any of the twelve Appropriations bills are not completed by the end of the year, it will trigger a sequestration, a 1% cut across all government spending, including both Defense and Nondefense programs, so there is motivation for both parties to find solutions to completing the process.