Congress on August Recess Leaving Many Federal Budget Questions to Resolve

Members of the House and Senate are on recess for the month of August, having left many questions about the fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget unanswered, promising a busy and contentious September.

The Senate will reconvene on September 5th and the House on the 12th.  Advocates have conceded hope of Congress passing any of the individual budgets and are bracing for the possibility of a government shut down if the two Chambers are unable to agree on a continuing resolution (CR). Even when brief, shutdowns are extremely disruptive and inefficient for federal agencies.

Despite the agreed upon in the debt limit compromise between Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Joe Biden reflected in Fiscal Responsibility Act, the House and Senate started their respective budget processes with different baseline amounts. The Senate used the numbers in the agreement to determine subcommittee allocations while the House appropriators made the decision to markup funding bills at significantly lower levels. As a result, even if the House and Senate were able to pass appropriation bills, they would need to reconcile the differences before sending to the President.

The House Appropriations Committee passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills to the House floor. The two bills of greatest relevance to FABBS members – Commerce, Justice, Science (which includes the National Science Foundation) and Labor, Health and Human Services (which includes the National Institutes of Health and Institute of Education Sciences) were stalled after subcommittee markups. Following passage of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs budget, the House abandoned the Agriculture funding bill due to Republican disagreements and are unlikely to pick up the remaining bills.

[FABBS Federal Science Funding Dashboard]

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all 12 of the appropriations bills – an accomplishment that has not been realized for five years.

Further complicating the outlook is a provision that triggers a 1 percent budget cut on January 1, 2024, unless Congress passes all 12 appropriations bills according to limits – or votes again to suspend the debt limit.