With just one week left until the August recess, Congress has continued to make progress on a number of their top priorities for this year. Both the House and Senate have moved funding bills through various subcommittees and the full Appropriations committees; the House Rules committee has announced consideration of two of the Appropriations bills this week, including the Agriculture bill, potentially teeing them up for a vote by the full House of Representatives before lawmakers leave for the month. There continues to be stark differences between the House and Senate Appropriations bills, with much steeper cuts and elimination of several programs in the House bills. In fact, members of the House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last week declaring that they will not vote for bills that go above the FY22 levels, demanding even deeper cuts than what have been proposed so far.
House leadership agreed to this demand later in the week. This means that bills that come before the full House will include even more harmful cuts to programs.
Meanwhile, the Senate is moving in the opposite direction. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) reached a deal to add nearly $14 billion to the Senate appropriations bills, in addition to any supplemental funding for Ukraine. They have agreed to add $8 billion for defense and $5.7 billion for nondefense programs: the Homeland Security and Labor-HHS-Education bills would get $2 billion each; the State-Foreign Operations bill would get $1.35 billion; and the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which was already marked up last week, would get $350 million, presumably tacked onto one of the remaining bills.
These differences are setting Congress up for a very difficult negotiation process in September, where conference committees and leadership will need to iron out bills that can pass both chambers. The federal fiscal year ends on September 30th, not leaving much time once members return from their districts after Labor Day.
There are other important bills that will need to move this year as well. There continues to be talk of a tax package, with the GOP tax bills that passed the House marking a first move in that process. Democratic members of both the House and the Senate continue to champion the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, demanding that any tax package must also include policies that will benefit children and families. There has been some bipartisan agreement on the importance of the CTC, with Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, announcing his plan to create a subcommittee on this issue. Representative John James (R-MI) has also introduced a bill to expand the CTC, significantly increasing the maximum credit and creating new credits for certain professionals working in qualified opportunity zones. His proposal does not include full refundability, a key Democrat priority, but the much higher benefit could form the basis for negotiations with Democratic members.
Other reauthorizations worth watching include: the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act), the primary vehicle for most healthcare-related legislation this year and which has already moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee; the Farm bill, which includes child nutrition programs and SNAP and WIC benefits; and the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act. Both the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and Title IV-B are due to be reauthorized, though it is more likely that these will be tabled this year and will garner more focus next year. There could also be a TANF reauthorization effort in the works, as the House Ways and Means Subcommittee has now held two hearings on the program.