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Stopgap funds bill leaves plenty of post-Thanksgiving leftovers

From Ukraine and Israel funding to renewing federal aviation programs, there's still much work to do

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, speaks with the panel's ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, before the start of the committee's hearing on the president's supplemental request on Nov. 8.
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, speaks with the panel's ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, before the start of the committee's hearing on the president's supplemental request on Nov. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House GOP-drafted stopgap funding measure would remove pressure for final decisions on this year’s appropriations bills until early in 2024, and the lapsed farm bill would be renewed through next September. But that doesn’t take the pressure off lawmakers to tackle a variety of other measures on their “to-do” list for the remainder of the year.

Top of mind for many on both sides of the aisle is emergency spending for the wars in Ukraine and Israel and the Gaza Strip and associated economic and humanitarian fallout, which is tied up in a dispute over what to do about record migrant border-crossings. But President Joe Biden’s emergency funding package is effectively on hold until after Thanksgiving.

The measure would also leave out extensions of Federal Aviation Administration programs and so-called Section 702 warrantless surveillance authorities that expire Dec. 31. A number of tax and health care-related items also weren’t addressed.

[Johnson offers up two-tiered stopgap funds plan]

There’s still the annual defense policy bill out there as a potential vehicle to carry year-end deals across the finish line, but the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA has its own set of hurdles before becoming law for the 63rd consecutive year.

Below is a rundown of some of the big legislative undertakings that will get attention in the post-Thanksgiving crush.

War supplemental

Last month, Biden requested $106 billion in emergency spending to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion, support Israel’s war against Hamas, counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, shore up the U.S.-Mexico border, rebuild domestic submarine manufacturing capacity and more. 

Since then, it’s gone nowhere as Republicans in both chambers have grown more skeptical about committing U.S. taxpayer dollars to Ukraine. They’d tied support for more Ukraine aid to a package of border and asylum restrictions, which a bipartisan group has been attempting to hash out. But prospects for a deal before the current continuing resolution expires Nov. 17 don’t look good.

Meanwhile, Democrats don’t want to accept an Israel-only package, fearing it will let some of the air out of efforts to pass Ukraine aid. 

As a result, Senate consideration of Biden’s supplemental request is pushed to the final few weeks of the year, when other major defense priorities — such as the NDAA — will also be jockeying for passage. 

Defense Department officials have sought to underscore the urgency of the supplemental request.

In all, the Pentagon has more than $5 billion in authority to continue transferring weapons to Ukraine and around $1 billion to backfill defense equipment that has already been sent abroad. But the administration’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds, under which the U.S. buys weapons directly from industry, have been tapped out for weeks. 

The lack of new funds means that the U.S. has “been forced to meter out our support to Ukraine,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters last week.

The uncertainty over Biden’s war supplemental request also has implications for his $56 billion proposed emergency funds package for domestic purposes like restoring lapsed child care subsidies as well as funds set to run out next year for broadband connections. 

Restocking disaster aid coffers, restoring higher wildland firefighter pay and weaning the U.S. off Russian uranium supplies are among other pieces of Biden’s domestic funding package that will have to wait for after Thanksgiving.

FISA overhaul

The House GOP-drafted stopgap bill wouldn’t extend Section 702 foreign surveillance authority, which expires at the end of the year and is contentious because of privacy concerns.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., didn’t include a temporary extension so the House “can continue to build momentum for a FISA reform package that protects the privacy of Americans from government overreach and protects our national security,” according to talking points distributed to GOP conference members.

Section 702 authority allows the U.S. government to collect the digital communications of foreigners located outside the country, but also gives U.S. authorities the green light to search through foreign surveillance data for information on Americans, without a warrant.

Last week, a bipartisan group unveiled the first major legislation to reauthorize Section 702, which would limit the U.S. government’s ability to conduct warrantless searches for information on Americans.

The bill has broad support across the political spectrum, but prospects for getting the measure through both chambers and signed into law this year are uncertain. Biden administration officials are opposing a warrant requirement and argue the idea would hamper efforts to keep the country safe.

FAA reauthorization

The CR enacted in late September included an extension of the FAA’s funding authority through Dec. 31, buying some to reach an agreement on a multiyear reauthorization.

The House passed its version of a reauthorization bill in July but has been waiting on the Senate. The Senate has yet to reach an agreement, though, on language in its bill that would allow pilots in training to count flight simulator practice towards certification requirements. 

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., offered an amendment that would allow “enhanced training,” which could include simulators, to count towards the 1,500 hours of in-flight experience to become a certified pilot. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and FAA bill co-author Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., object to the language.

Congress has had no qualms about enacting multiple short-term extensions in the past. Lawmakers extended the FAA’s funding authority six times over three years before they passed the previous five-year reauthorization bill in 2018.

Tax policy

The length of Johnson’s stopgap bill complicates a bipartisan push to get a tax package done by the end of this year because it would mean no broad spending measure to attach it to, according to multiple sources tracking the effort.

Instead, lawmakers could add a potential tax deal to a must-pass bill also left out of the CR: FAA reauthorization, which would already be a revenue measure because it renews federal aviation taxes. 

They could also attempt to pass a standalone tax package rooted in a bipartisan, widely supported bill to extend friendly tax treatment to Taiwan, according to some former aides.

The availability of a legislative vehicle to carry a tax package to the president’s desk likely the biggest hurdle. Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., appear to be having productive negotiations and could be closing in on a deal to revive expired business tax incentives and expand the child tax credit, particularly by making it more available to the lowest-income families.

If a vehicle doesn’t become available this year, the initial date when some government funding would expire under Johnson’s CR next year, Jan. 19, would present the next chance to get a tax bill done. There would likely be pressure from groups that back the business breaks and child credit in January, but some sources believe that the window for passing tax legislation could close by then.

Health care

The House bill would renew through Jan. 19 provisions of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act that lawmakers allowed to lapse after Sept. 30. 

But the new CR does not address provisions of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or pieces of the 2018 opioid recovery and treatment law that expired at the end of the fiscal year. Both PEPFAR and the 2018 law have been bipartisan programs but efforts on an extension agreement have stalled this year.

Reauthorizing PEPFAR has become increasingly complicated because of a split among conservatives about how to proceed with funding the program and allegations the funds are used to fund abortion.

House and Senate panels have also been working on legislation to rein in the practices of pharmacy benefit managers or PBMs, expand access to mental health care and more that could see renewed attention after Thanksgiving. 

And while the House GOP-drafted CR would renew some expiring Medicare and Medicaid “extenders,” such as delaying cuts impacting low-income hospitals, others expiring at the end of year aren’t dealt with and would have to be addressed retroactively if there’s no action by Dec. 31.

Briana Reilly, Ryan Tarinelli, Valerie Yurk, Laura Weiss and Sandhya Raman contributed to this report.  

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