Congressional Democrats are racing to pass a year-long budget deal before the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives in January.
Democrats want to get the budget deal in place to fund the federal government beginning December 16, when the current funding ends, until the fall of 2023. The deal would block the Republican-controlled House from exerting its influence while allowing the Biden administration to fund pet initiatives.
“Government funding should rise above politics when the well-being of our troops and our national defense is on the line,” said Democrat Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader from New York, on the floor of the Senate. Schumer noted the geopolitical threats posed by China and Russia.
Republicans in the House have a different view. Some argue that since they won control of the chamber in the midterms, Congress should only enact a short-term funding bill until January. The move would force the Democrats and Biden, who retained control of the Senate in the midterms by a narrow margin, to give concessions to the Republicans in exchange for a passed budget.
“A deal that vanquished poison pills and went to January would enhance the leverage of Republicans to dictate policy terms, said Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz. Democrats say the work on a year-long budget would be wasted if Congress held off until January.
The 12 appropriations bills that form the budget are set to expire when the new Congress takes over on January 3. Similarly, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committees are set to retire this term. Additionally, the appropriations gavel is slated to change hands in the House.
Making matters more pressing, Congress must pass a government funding bill by December 16 or face a shutdown. Officials with the Biden administration have warned allowing the deadline to come and go without passing a budget deal would put national security at risk because a short-term bill for government funding keeps spending levels flat.
“Under [a short-term funding bill], Congress prohibits the military from commencing new initiatives, such as those requested by our theater commanders in the Indo-Pacific and around the world or in support of service members and their families at home,” wrote Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary in a letter to Senate and House lawmakers.
“We must break this pattern of extensive inaction. We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our backs,” continued Austin.
Adding to growing concerns, Republicans will only hold a narrow majority in the House next year. That fact could make it difficult if he doesn’t have support from Democrats next year.
Conservatives line up against more support for Ukraine
Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have already started to fight against more humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine. The White House requested nearly $38 billion in new aid to Ukraine be included in any spending bill passed by January.
Earlier in the year, 11 Republicans in the Senate and 57 in the House opposed providing further aid to Ukraine unless the administration implemented more robust accountability measures to prevent corruption.
“Americans deserve to know where all of that money went,” said Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona. “It’s time for a thorough audit.”
Democrats say GOP opposition makes it more critical for Congress to pass a year-long budget before January.