The House and Senate have until next Friday (November 17) to agree on legislation to fund the government. (UBS)

November 17 Deadline. The House and Senate have until next Friday (November 17) to agree on legislation to fund the government in order to avoid a government shutdown. Both chambers appear to be inclined to pass bills next week that will extend funding to either mid-December or mid-January. This would take the threat of a government shutdown off the table for more than a month, though the threat would return closer to the end of the year. Additionally, since the House and Senate are each expected to pass different bills to extend the deadline, there will need to be some negotiation between the leaders of the two chambers to reconcile those differences. That process will take some time. The two sides will engage in familiar jostling about the government spending levels and about whether to include funding for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and the southwest border to the measure.

We expect all of the controversial issues to be stripped away and for a two-month extension to be passed late next week or over the weekend.

Individual Spending Bills. The House this week tried to pass two more government funding bills, but it lacked the votes to pass them. These are just two of 12 individual bills that must pass to fund government operations each year. Because of challenges passing these bills individually, Congress over many years has resorted to passing one large bill containing all 12 measures (an “omnibus”). Many House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), don’t like this practice since they believe it doesn’t foster enough scrutiny of agency spending programs and results in over-spending. The House so far has passed seven of the 12 spending bills. Speaker Johnson’s goal is to finish all 12 bills in the upcoming weeks and then negotiate each bill with the Senate, but this is a very unlikely outcome due to strong Senate opposition (the Senate has passed just three of the 12 spending bills).

This will be the challenge lawmakers face as they work toward the next deadline, and no one can say now how the two sides will compromise and avert yet another government shutdown threat.

What House Republicans Want. In addition to wanting to pass appropriations bills individually, House Republicans want lower spending in all of the bills relative to last year’s funding except for defense and veterans affairs programs. As we noted last week, House Republicans also want new spending this year to be offset by reductions of the same amount in other federal spending so that there is no impact on the federal budget deficit. So far, most of the seven bills approved have lower spending levels compared to last year. Some House Republicans have also suggested a “laddering” of the passage of the 12 spending bills so that some agencies can receive full-year funding in the short term (and avert a shutdown of those activities), while others will be subject to more negotiations (and a potential shutdown).

The Senate will resist this overall approach, but it will have to accommodate the House in some way if any of the funding bills are to advance into law.

The Final Word

Tuesday Takeaways. Despite Democratic pessimism after polling showed former President Trump beating President Biden among a sample of voters, Tuesday’s elections in several states concluded with solid wins for Democrats. They split the gubernatorial races in Kentucky (win) and Mississippi (loss), passed Issue 1 in Ohio (which enshrined abortion protections in the state constitution) and retook control of both state legislative chambers in Virginia. Abortion policy was clearly a driving factor in most of this success, and Democratic strategists have already begun trying to determine how to mimic Tuesday’s success across the country in 2024. It wasn’t all good news for Democrats, however, since even as they won some key races, they won with fewer votes than they received in 2019 when Trump was president, a clear sign that voter turnout was down across the board.

Voter turnout will be important to both Biden and Trump (assuming they are the final candidates), and the question to ponder is whether Democratic turnout will increase next year because Trump is on the ballot or whether it will continue to be down because of low enthusiasm and poll numbers plaguing Biden?

See the full Washington Weekly , 11 November, 2023.

Approval Date: 11/10/2023 Expiration: 11/30/2024 Review Code: IS2306743