Congress Faces Long To-Do List As Shutdowns Loom To Start 2024

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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The Congress must address several items of public importance, which it has failed to dispose of for months when it reconvenes for legislative business in the second week of January.

The Senate adjourned on Dec. 21 after attempting to reach a political compromise on funding for Ukraine in exchange for border security measures, while the House of Representatives adjourned for a winter holiday recess on Dec. 14. When both houses convene for legislative business on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9, respectively, they will be presented with four time-sensitive major funding proposals to address regarding Israel, Ukraine, the southern border and the U.S. government as a whole. (RELATED: Congress Unlikely To Pass All Appropriations Bills Before Next Government Funding Deadline In 2024, Experts Say)

Under the terms of a continuing resolution passed by Congress on Nov. 15, funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Labor, Transportation and the White House, among others, will expire on Jan. 19, with the absence of a bill to fund them beyond that date precipitating a partial government shutdown. House Speaker Mike Johnson has previously indicated that the House will not consider any more continuing resolutions, which will leave the House just eight working days — excluding weekends and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday — to pass the five appropriations bills, or a small omnibus package, required for these departments to avert a shutdown.

Neither the House nor the Senate has completely passed an appropriations bill ready for presentment to President Joe Biden, amid large differences between Democrats and Republicans on their contents. Of the seven bills passed by the House and three bills passed by the Senate, only one bill, related to military construction projects and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been passed by both Houses, though each house has passed a different version of the bill that will require a conference process to harmonize.

Apart from the appropriations process, Congress will resume its consideration of an aid package to Ukraine requested by the Biden administration, which has been blocked by House Republicans unless the Democratic-led Senate grants concessions on border security. The Senate was unable to reach a compromise that satisfies Democrats, some of whom have objected to any enhancement of authority to remove illegal immigrants demanded by Republicans.

The pace of negotiations has exposed divisions among Senate Democrats, with embattled Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey placing holds on Biden administration nominees in protest. House Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that conservative border security measures must be considered if any Ukraine funding is to pass the House.

Funding for Ukraine expired on Sept. 30, the beginning of the Fiscal Year 2023-24, and was not included in the previous two continuing resolutions. The absence of American financial support prompted a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the United States in December to plead for congressional support.

Congress, furthermore, is considering a bill to provide military aid to Israel during its war against Hamas. While supported in principle by Democrats and Republicans, the former oppose a House-passed bill to provide aid offset by cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.

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