Senate Democrats, joined by 22 Republicans, approved a continuing resolution (CR) on Sept. 29 that would keep the federal government from closing on Sept. 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.
The funding measure adds $1 billion more for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $2 billion in emergency disaster aid assistance. There are also provisions making $2.5 billion available in compensation for victims of a devastating New Mexico wildfire, $20 million to deal with the Jackson, Mississippi, municipal water system crisis, and $112 million for enhanced security at federal courthouses.
Because the CR only keeps the government open until Dec. 16, the current Congress will return after the Nov. 8 election for a “lame duck” session that will be dominated by debate over an omnibus spending bill to complete the 2023 federal budget.
The omnibus measure will provide Democrats of the 117th Congress their last opportunity to set federal spending levels for 2023 and thereafter. The 118th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2023.
The House is expected to approve the short-term funding on Sept. 30, and President Joe Biden will sign it into law. At that point, Congress will leave town, as senators and representatives head home for campaigning ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
All 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate’s 100 seats are up for grabs. Republicans are expected to regain the majority in the House as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) reign as third-in-line in the presidential succession comes to an end after two years with a seven-vote majority.
The Senate is split evenly with 50 Democrats (counting two independents who vote with them) and 50 Republicans; Vice President Kamala Harris gives her party its effective majority as a tie-breaking vote. Republicans are cautiously optimistic about their chances of regaining the Senate majority.
The CR would add $19 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) coffers in the wake of severe damage in Puerto Rico and Florida from Hurricane Ian. The storm also is expected to cause additional flooding in the Carolinas and Virginia as it heads up the Atlantic Coast after pummeling Florida.
A potential roadblock on the CR’s road to Senate passage was resolved earlier in the day when Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) agreed to withdraw his request to be allowed to offer a balanced-budget-related amendment on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to give Braun 10 minutes of floor time to pitch his proposal, in return for the Indiana Republican withdrawing his amendment request.
Braun told reporters that Republicans “have to be for something that we stand for, and we got to all be willing to pay for it without borrowing from future generations, which we’re currently doing.”
The federal government has spent more than it received in revenues every year since 2001. The deficit for 2001 was $2.77 trillion and is expected to be bigger when the spending for 2022 is finally tallied.
The Manchin proposal, which would also speed up approvals for infrastructure projects such as new electricity transmission lines to carry power from wind and solar sources, drew stout opposition from Senate Republicans and many of the chamber’s most liberal Democrats.
The permitting proposal could be added to a defense spending bill that Congress still must complete during the lame duck session, but the prospects for passage aren’t likely to improve because most of the West Virginia lawmaker’s party colleagues oppose it.
Three Republican senators—Mike Lee of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Marco Rubio of Florida—didn’t vote.