Congress On Short-Term Funding Bill Negotiations, Border Talks

Aside from fulfilling their primary duty of appropriating the funds for government agencies to operate, members of Congress are also faced with addressing the immigration crisis at the southern border and getting U.S. military aid flowing again to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Wednesday, January 17th 2024, 5:42 pm



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With just two days before parts of the federal government run out of money, it appears Congress is on track to pass another short-term funding extension. The fate of other big issues facing lawmakers, however, remains unclear.

Aside from fulfilling their primary duty of appropriating the funds for government agencies to operate, members of Congress are also faced with addressing the immigration crisis at the southern border and getting U.S. military aid flowing again to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Getting some movement in his proposed supplemental aid package is an especially high priority for President Joe Biden, which is why he invited congressional leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), to the White House Wednesday afternoon.

"It’s a belated recognition by the President that they can’t just deal with the Senate," said Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK4) in an interview Wednesday.

A bipartisan group of Senators, including Oklahoma's James Lankford, have been negotiating for months and are closing in on an immigration reform and border security deal, which Republicans have said must be part of the aid package in order for them to even consider supporting it.

Rep. Cole says it's a little late, but still important to bring Speaker Johnson in on the talks.

"If you don’t include him," said Cole, "he doesn’t have to put it on the floor, and there’s going to be a lot of Republican opposition anyway to a bipartisan deal in the Senate."

Cole praises Lankford for even making the effort to reach an agreement on immigration reform "because this is one of those issues that, no matter what you do, you take arrows from one side or the other, and he is trying to thread the needle and get something done for the country."

Cole says the border crisis is wholly President Biden's mess, but he disagrees with some of his Republican colleagues who, he says, want to kill any deal that comes to the House because it might help Democrats and Biden politically.

"That’s silly," said Cole, "we’re up here to solve problems."

Senator Markwayne Mullin has heard similar sentiments from Republican members.

"You have the group that has a belief that they just want to wait until Trump gets into office before we do anything," Mullin (R-OK) said in an interview Wednesday. "Well, there’s a crisis going on today; that means they’re playing politics with it because when Trump gets in office, we'll do something else, but we’ve got to do something today because it’s a national security issue."

Both Cole and Mullin are confident Congress is going to avoid a shutdown, which, for several federal agencies, would begin at midnight Friday if Congress doesn't agree on some funding mechanism.

The Senate took the first step Tuesday night in passing another laddered continuing resolution (CR), one that would essentially give appropriators an additional 5-6 weeks to move the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government across the finish line. Mullin says there's little chance of even hitting the new deadline and feels Congress should move on and start working on FY 2025 appropriations bills.

"If we don’t start working on those, we’re going to be in the same situation that we are now next year," Mullin said. "At some point, you’ve got to call a duck a duck; at some point, we need to do away with the funding for FY '24 -- what I mean by that is either complete all 12 appropriation bills -- which isn’t going to happen -- or go ahead and do a CR for the rest of the year and then start really heavily focusing on FY 25."

The Senate will likely vote to give final approval to the CR Thursday, and then the House could take it up, Cole says, as quickly as Thursday night, so members can get out of town before the possible arrival of snow in Washington Friday.

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