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This Week in Congress

This week, Congress returned to Washington, D.C. to work on spending bills for the current fiscal year, before funding expires for certain federal agencies. Congressional leaders announced on Sunday afternoon the framework of an agreement that will have to be finalized in the next ten days.

Per the agreement, House and Senate negotiators reached a deal on FY24 funding levels for defense and nondefense spending limits. The deal will allow for the total level of spending laid out in last year’s debt limit agreement with $886.3 billion for defense and $772.7 billion for nondefense programs. Speaker Johnson secured $16 billion in additional rescissions of previously-appropriated funds, which includes $6.1 billion in new claw backs of pandemic aid and $20.2 billion in IRS funding rescissions, more than double the earlier agreement. An extra $1.4 billion would be taken out of the Commerce Department’s “nonrecurring expenses fund” that had been set aside for next year’s bills.  The pandemic aid rescissions would come mainly from unused funding recently recovered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The cuts would not affect development of new vaccines or treatments. There are still more issues to be worked out including the controversial policy riders before a final appropriations package can be finalized.

President Biden expressed support for the deal and stated, “the bipartisan funding framework congressional leaders have reached moves us one step closer to preventing a needless government shutdown and protecting important national priorities. It reflects the funding levels that I negotiated with both parties and signed into law last spring.  It rejects deep cuts to programs hardworking families count on and provides a path to passing full-year funding bills that deliver for the American people and are free of any extreme policies.”

Sen. Lankford (R-OK), the top Senate Republican negotiator, said he expects to see legislative text drafted "later on this week" to enact immigration policy changes at the U.S.-Mexico border. Republicans have insisted on new border security policies as a condition for additional aid to Ukraine.

In a memo to agencies, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicated that for now it is taking 'no action' to sequester funding as addressed in provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). The FRA has both discretionary spending limits that would be relevant with the passage of full-year appropriations bills (section 101) and interim discretionary spending limits that would be enforced after April 30, 2024, if full-year appropriations bills are not signed into law (section 102). Under the FRA, spending limits would not be enforced until after full year appropriations are enacted, or April 30th, whichever comes first.

Finally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has confirmed that deep nondefense spending cuts would be triggered if a full-year continuing resolution (CR) is enacted. In a letter to House Budget Committee leaders last week, the CBO said that based on their own estimates, the sequester provision could result in 9 percent across-the-board reductions to domestic and foreign aid accounts. The cuts would result in a $27 billion reduction to defense while nondefense spending would be cut by $73 billion, or 9 percent.