Congress Gears up for (Another) Spending Fight

House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy attend a stamp unveiling ceremony in honor of the late congressman and civil rights activist John R. Lewis of Georgia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Discrepancies in funding plans for the next fiscal year are setting the House and Senate on a collision course this fall, with a government shutdown hanging in the balance. And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s need to keep a small bloc of his Republican conference happy to hold onto the Speaker’s gavel could lead to a redux of the debt ceiling battle.

In the House, a group of House Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives have made no secret of their unhappiness with the debt ceiling deal McCarthy reached with President Joe Biden last month, which suspended the debt limit until January 2025 and capped discretionary spending. That has prompted McCarthy to agree to write most appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year at much lower spending levels, modeled after the numbers from fiscal year 2022. 

The Senate, meanwhile, is largely ignoring the House as its own appropriations process gets underway. In the upper chamber, appropriators are planning to write spending bills for fiscal year 2024 according to the budget targets outlined in the debt ceiling deal, which passed on a bipartisan basis.

House Republicans’ “proposals are not serious,” Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, tells The Dispatch. “This might as well be a press release.”

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