The important bills that Congress must pass by the end of the year

As the holidays approach, Congress is facing a familiar time crunch over two bills to pass: a government funding measure and the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The immediate deadline for a spending measure is December 16, when current funding expires, but January 3, when a new Congress takes office and Republicans take over the Houseis the major concern for lawmakers.

Although there are other legislative priorities that the House and Senate could try to pass, such as attempts to address the problem debt ceiling, immigration policy, or expedite the permitting process to develop clean energy infrastructure, NDAA and omnibus bills are in the spotlight. The NDAA has been passed every year for more than half a centuryand failure to pass a government funding measure of some kind would result in a partial government shutdown.

While this is a somewhat regular issue — Congress is prone to procrastinating before the holidays or the end of the fiscal year — the yearly struggle to fund government is still a cause for concern. Progress on legislative priorities, especially critical legislation such as omnibus laws, often gets bogged down in partisan struggles and efforts to enact measures that are difficult to pass as stand-alone laws.

Last year around this time, the NDAA was also still tied to Congress; it only passed the Senate on December 15 after a long struggle and took an omnibus appropriations bill different months and three CRs.

There is even more urgency to pass the NDAA and the omnibus bill by the end of the year as unified democratic control of the government ends at noon on January 3. legislator and current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expected to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House despite some internal GOP resistance.

The NDAA passed the House; now he faces the Senate

Of the two critical bills, the NDAA is closest to complete passage. 2023 Bill Includes a Record $858 Billion in Spending Priorities, Eclipsing Last Year’s Budget of 768 trillion dollars.

While the NDAA is considered an annual mandatory step, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually award any money to the Department of Defense; instead, it authorizes spending on policies and programs. To fund these priorities, Congress must pass an appropriations bill.

The Chamber has already passed multiple versions of the bill, even though McCarthy in November threatened to put the legislation on hold until January, when the GOP is in control of the House and he will, presumably, be the speaker.

“I’ve seen what Democrats have done on a lot of these things, especially the NDAA — the revival they want to bring there,” McCarthy said in November after receiving his party’s nomination for the House leadership. “I actually think the NDAA should stick around until the first of this year – and let’s do it right.”

McCarthy didn’t specify what, exactly, is too “woke up” in the legislation, but how The hill he pointed out last week, he may have been referring to proposed new grooming standards that allow for a wider variety of hairstyles for female service members and service members of color, different uniforms to accommodate pregnant service members, and efforts to address diversity, equality and inclusion as well as rooting out extremism in the ranks.

While the NDAA looks on track to pass this year, Republicans have already won at least one major concession. The version the House passed on Thursday, with overwhelming bipartisan support, ends Covid-19 vaccine mandate for service members; last month, a group of Republicans in the Senate he threatened to block the bill unless he ends the policy, which some Republicans say has caused staffing problems due to vaccine-related dumping. How Vox’s Li Zhou explained earlier this weekDemocrats in the Senate will likely have little room to dismiss the issue:

Why the NDAA needs at least 10 Republican votes to pass the Senate, e [required] Republican support in the House Given the narrow majority of Democrats in that house, the GOP has a key opportunity to secure a messaging and policy victory on vaccine requirements. The Republican efforts also suggest that they will continue to exploit Democrats’ need for cooperation in the new term, when they control the House and Democrats the Senate.

The House-approved bill also includes funding of up to $10 billion for Taiwan over the next five yearsAnd 800 million dollars for Ukraine. Although he continued western support in the form of weapons systems, supplies and intelligence has proved critical to Ukraine’s efforts to push Russian forces back from its territory, funding Ukraine’s battlefield efforts could become much more difficult with the Republican control of the House, as McCarthy expressed doubts about what he called “blank check” funding for Ukraine.

Also in this year’s NDAA is a major overhaul of the military’s handling of sex crimesa decade-long effort by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) e Retired Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA). The new measures, based on sweeping changes to military sex offender prosecutions, add three more offenses to the list of sex and related offenses covered by the new Special Prosecutors and remove the prosecution of those offenses from the chain of command, although they will continue to be prosecuted. before court martial and not through an independent tribunal.

Congress is still deadlocked on government funding

The time for the current government funding authorization expires on Dec. 16, giving Congress just days to pass a new omnibus spending bill, which is actually 12 separate bills correspondents to the congressional subcommittees that draw them up. Congress can pass individual bills within the omnibus package, but whatever happens, Congress must fund the government to avoid a tedious and costly shutdown.

Both sides are split on the extra $26 billion that Democrats want to spend on national programs, including a veterans health funding measure and increased spending in the financial services bill, which funds the IRS. Republicans say Democrats have already approved infusions of funds for the IRS, as well as a number of social programs, in the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this year.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters last week that she and her committee are not writing any interim funding measures at this time — and won’t until until Republicans agree to negotiate on some of the big picture numbers, CQ Roll Call Thursday reported. However, it seems increasingly likely that a short fallback will be needed, as Punchbowl News pointed out last weekand Pelosi floated the idea of ​​passing a CR of an unprecedented year. Whatever the solution, however, Congress could be blocked working on a solution during the holidays.

But while in the short term ongoing resolutions to allow time for the final approval of an appropriations bill can be crucial, long-term CRs are less than ideal because they follow previous year’s budget priorities and numbers. Last year’s budget is difficult to maintain when inflation has driven up wages, as well as the cost of supplies from fuel to technology, but the CRs also mean that government policies are stuck in the past and new programs and priorities – which they cost money – cannot be implemented.

Despite these problems, however, the annual process runs into a time crunch almost without fail — and it remains to be seen whether Congress can pass an omnibus bill earlier this year than last.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stands next to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a bill signing ceremony for the Respect For Marriage Act on Dec. 8, 2022.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi next to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a signing ceremony for the Respect For Marriage Act bill on December 8, 2022. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images