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Murray, Collins strike deal on fiscal 2024 emergency funds

Top Senate appropriators in both parties argue that spending allowances in debt limit deal are insufficient

Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, right, and Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., lead a full committee markup on June 22, 2023.
Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, right, and Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., lead a full committee markup on June 22, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Corrected 6:30 p.m. | Senate Appropriations Committee leaders have reached agreement to tack on nearly $14 billion in additional fiscal 2024 spending in the bills set to come before the panel before the August recess, sources familiar with the discussions say.

The arrangement brokered by committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, would add emergency funding that’s on top of $23 billion already negotiated in a “side deal” alongside the debt ceiling package.

In a joint statement, Murray and Collins said the agreement responds to demands senators on both sides of the aisle, from on and off the committee, have voiced.

“[W]e are using the full resources provided by the debt ceiling deal, and — just as we do every year — we have agreed to use additional emergency appropriations for [fiscal 2024], as appropriate, to address in a bipartisan fashion some of the pressing challenges our nation faces,” Collins and Murray said.

The extra money would be separate from a supplemental aid package for Ukraine and other purposes that senators on both sides of the aisle say they’d like to pursue this year, though the money could end up being used for similar things.

More than half the new funding would be added to the Defense spending bill that Senate appropriators are tentatively planning to mark up July 27, according to sources. The remainder would be sprinkled around the Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, and State-Foreign Operations bills as well as tacked onto accounts ordinarily funded in the Commerce-Justice-Science measure, which was already marked up Thursday.

Defense would receive $8 billion; Homeland Security and Labor-HHS-Education, $2 billion each; State-Foreign Operations, $1.35 billion; and Commerce-Justice-Science accounts, $350 million, presumably tacked onto one of the remaining bills.

Murray and Collins hinted at their strategy during debate over the debt ceiling package and in the panel’s first markup in June. The debt limit deal capped defense increases at 3.3 percent in fiscal 2024, while nondefense accounts would have to rely on tens of billions in “adjustments” above the spending caps just to stay even with the current fiscal year.

“Just as we do every year, we can and we will consider supplemental and emergency appropriations to address key challenges, like getting communities that are struck by natural disasters the resources they need to recover, standing with our Ukrainian allies against Putin’s war of aggression, ensuring we have resources in place to address the situation at the border, and stop the flow of fentanyl,” Murray said at the June 22 meeting.

Collins, who’s also the top Republican on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said she opposed the subcommittee allocations because she considered the funding inadequate for the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

“As we move forward, we must secure additional defense funding,” she said at the markup. “I hope in the weeks ahead we would be able to reach agreement to ensure that our military and the Department of Homeland Security have the resources they need to keep our country safe.”

And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the State-Foreign Operations subcommittee ranking member, made clear he would push for additional funding for Ukraine as well as Navy shipbuilding.

“If you’re looking at China’s Navy and think now is the time to shrink our Navy, you sure as hell shouldn’t be in the Navy,” Graham said. “We go from 298 ships in this budget deal to eventually 291. In the same period of time, the Chinese go from a little over 300 to 440. So don’t tell me you’re a China hawk if you supported this deal, because you sunk the Navy.”

As for Ukraine, Graham said, “There’s not a penny in this deal to help them keep fighting.”

Additionally, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid coffers. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told a House panel Thursday that she expects the Disaster Relief Fund to run dry in mid-to-late August, when lawmakers are on recess.

Side deal adjustments

Part of the side deal in the debt limit negotiations included $23 billion in regular agency funds designated as an emergency to get around budget caps. That includes $2.25 billion already included in the Commerce-Justice-Science bill approved last week for a wide range of accounts, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the U.S. Marshals Service.

In addition, the side agreement allowed for $10 billion in rescissions of previously appropriated IRS funding, which Senate appropriators used to boost new fiscal 2024 Financial Services bill resources. And the Commerce-Justice-Science bill adds $11 billion by clawing back brand-new funds just appropriated in the debt limit package for a “nonrecurring expenses fund” at Commerce.

On July 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up State-Foreign Operations as well as Energy-Water and Transportation-HUD. The following week on July 27, the panel is expected to take up the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Homeland Security and Interior-Environment measures.

The extra emergency funding would widen the gap even further between Senate appropriators and their House counterparts, who are grappling with conservatives in that chamber seeking deeper cuts. House Appropriations Republicans have already set lower funding levels for their nondefense bills than the debt deal calls for, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has been under pressure in his chamber to oppose a supplemental package for Ukraine.

This report was corrected to reflect the Senate Appropriations Committee’s July 13 approval of the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science bill.

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