What will happen now that Congress bought itself a week or two on the budget?

It is not what contractors or most federal employees wanted, but Congress did manage to avoid a partial government shutdown last week.

It is not what contractors or most federal employees wanted, but Congress did manage to avoid a partial government shutdown last week. They only pushed the deadline out a week or two, in order to buy time to consider budget bills. For the outlook on the week ahead, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan.

Interview Transcript:  

Tom Temin  And, Loren, before all of this, of course, we have been going back and forth with the fact that the bills are out there and some of them have been negotiated by some committees and some chambers. What does it look like now?

Loren Duggan So, like you mentioned, we kicked one of the deadlines from March 1st to March 8th, giving them a week to wrap up a package of bills. On Sunday, they released six bills as a one package. So, they’ll take one vote on. And that will be before the House and Senate this week and try to meet that Friday night deadline to avoid that partial shutdown. What had been set to expire March 8th will now expire March 22nd. So, we have a couple of more weeks to go on. The other six bills that are needed to fund the rest of the government. So, there’s progress being made real full year funding packages available for members to vote on, and you have to mark that as some form of progress, given what we’ve been going through till now.

Tom Temin Because so many bills seem to have been agreed to by leadership and so on. And I’m thinking of aid to Ukraine, but it dies, you know, because of the split of the Republican Party in the House. Is that likely to happen this time or we actually pass stuff?

Loren Duggan This looks like a classic compromise where Republicans got a few things they wanted. Democrats got some things they wanted, and they are all talking about the elements of the bill that are wins for them. So, I think we’ll see a bipartisan vote for it. That doesn’t mean that everyone will be supporting it, though. There will probably be a significant Republican opposition to this. But they’re using a two thirds majority threshold in the House, and they’re going to have to get there with a combination of Republicans and Democrats.

Tom Temin And what do we know about the bill? Any of the particulars being coming into view at this point with respect to how much for which agency?

Loren Duggan Yeah, I mean, there’s a pretty good you know, it’s a $436 billion package, about 26% of the total, according to our team. That’s quite some of the numbers. And it’s going to fund the Agriculture Department, Commerce, justice, energy, interior, VA transit. There’s some pretty big chunks of the government there across those six bills. There’s a boost for the WIC program, which was a big win for Democrats. There’s a boost for VA medical health care of things like that. But there are some cuts. For example, the Republicans touted a 6% cut to the FBI. And, you know, another small cut, but at least a cut to some of the Amtrak programs that they wanted to see, some adjustments may to. So, there are some puts and takes in this in a classic kind of compromise. But overall, it will get these six bills and the agencies under them going for the rest of the year.

Tom Temin And with respect to what was appropriated eventually for 2023, is it up, down or about level?

Loren Duggan The overall deal has a little bit of a boost, but, you know, defense kind of went up in a direction that most people felt comfortable with. It’s going to have more non-defense spending than Republicans would like. But, perhaps, you know, less than the administration would have liked in its budget request for fiscal 2024, the year we’re in now. We’re quickly going to be turning to the 2025 request. But, in this case, you know, again, I think I’ve said it a couple times, it’s like classic compromise where you don’t get everything you want, but you get a good chunk.

Tom Temin Yeah. Usually, the administrations and administrations by tradition, is supposed to be out with its next year request yet. But I imagine this administration, like so many in recent years, will not be on time.

Loren Duggan Yeah, we’re looking at a March 11th release for that about a week from now. So right in the middle of these two spending package is going to be really hard to compare. But we’ll do our best, obviously, when that document hits our hands.

Tom Temin And so, again, to reiterate, the vote this week would be on those things that were to expire last week. But they are still yet to vote on those that would be expiring on the eighth at the end of this week.

Loren Duggan The things that are expiring are a mix of bills that had an originally that March 1st and March 8th deadline. Those six will be taken care of. The other six will expire March 22nd at this rate, causing a 23rd shutdown. But they’re working to get those bills done. Although defense is in there, homeland security, which is particularly tricky right now with the border and funding the agencies that operate there. So, I think a significant amount of work remains to be done on those, but they’ll take the win on this one to try to get it through the House and the Senate and go on with some other things.

Tom Temin And you said there was a slight cut to the FBI. What about their new headquarters? Is there any funding for that in there? I mean, that’s still not quite resolved thoroughly where it is they’re going to relocate to.

Loren Duggan Right. I don’t think that’s been I don’t think they’re going to get the boost that perhaps they hoped for, for that. But there is some construction funding in there, as I understand it.

Tom Temin All right. And so, what’s the schedule look like for taking up those things that the expiration is now the 22nd.

Loren Duggan So we’ll be waiting to see that waiting for them to finalize and release those bills. You know, Congress likes a deadline. So maybe we won’t see that for another week or two. This is going to be a busy week just processing this first package. But appropriators are already turning towards that other one.

Tom Temin And they have published the bills that they’re going to be voting on. So, if someone wanted to start digging through the numbers. The numbers, agency by agency, are in there.

Loren Duggan They are. It’s about a thousand plus pages of bill text, and then a lot of other materials that you really need to look at to understand what’s in there. Yeah.

Tom Temin Is there a lot of policy in there. Do we know or is it simply the spending, the appropriations to back up what have been an authorizing bill earlier?

Loren Duggan There’re a few spending provisions of or I’m sorry, policy provisions of note. DEI riders that the Republicans that wanted most of those fell out. There is a rider in there to limit how the VA shares information with the gun registry, which had been a big sticking point, something they were working on. And then other provisions like that. But it’s all those writers that Republicans had put in the bills they wrote in committee. A lot of those fell out over the course of this process.

Tom Temin So they fell out. And these were desired by the more conservative end of the Republican Party. Are we going to have the same speaker in the next couple of weeks as we’ve had to this point heretofore?

Loren Duggan I mean, that only takes one person to force that vote. We’ll have to see. I mean, there’s a lot they want to get done. And with these other spending bills, Ukraine and other agenda items. So, that’s on a lot of minds, to be sure.

Tom Temin And you mentioned Homeland Security will be in that second tranche of bills for those things that expire on the 22nd of March. Homeland Security has been under a lot of Republican fire, the impeachment vote. So that one could be a little tough, couldn’t it?

Loren Duggan I think that’s the toughest one that’s outstanding at labor, HHS, education, a lot of social funding, tough to. But definitely those border politics that have held up the Ukraine bill are going to bleed over into that package as well. And it’ll be a tough one to wrap up. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the last thing they’re working on.

Tom Temin But it’ll be a little bit happier on the Hill at least this week.

Loren Duggan This week is busy too. The President’s up there Thursday for State of the Union. There’s elections that people are watching. So should be a busy, interesting, maybe happier week. We’ll see.

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