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Final spending package back on track after flurry of DHS talks

Full-year Homeland Security spending bill to be included after last-minute negotiations

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., discuss border security at a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting on Jan. 30.
Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., discuss border security at a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting on Jan. 30. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are back to writing a full-year fiscal 2024 Homeland Security appropriations bill in a dramatic, last-minute shift following White House intervention over the weekend, sources familiar with the decision said Sunday night. 

Appropriators had been working on a yearlong stopgap measure, negotiating necessary changes to the fiscal 2023 status quo to be included as “anomalies,” after talks on a full-year bill initially fell apart late last week.

That continuing resolution was expected to be packaged with the five remaining fiscal 2024 appropriations bills. However, as lawmakers got ready to roll out the package the White House made a late-inning request for $1.56 billion in border-related funding, arguing that a CR through Sept. 30 would be insufficient to meet existing needs.

Republicans rejected the new White House ask, arguing it was not sufficiently tied to border protection and immigration enforcement. But the two sides continued to talk throughout the day Sunday, trading options and counteroffers before the evening shift back to the regular, fully fleshed out Homeland bill.

While the situation remains fluid, the move back toward a full-fledged bill is ultimately a sign of forward momentum. However, release of text for the complete six-bill package is now expected Monday at the earliest, putting Congress on a compressed timeline to clear the legislation before Friday at midnight, when current stopgap funding lapses.

House rules allot members 72 hours to read legislation before voting on it, and it usually takes the Senate a couple days to process any legislation. The package will also include the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Financial Services, Legislative Branch and State-Foreign Operations measures. 

As appropriators discussed anomalies in the Homeland Security bill, two major areas of contention arose: Republicans’ desire for more funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bed capacity, and Democrats’ push for more money for Transportation Security Administration pay raises, as TSA workers have historically been paid less than counterparts at other agencies.

While appropriators were making final decisions on those topics, the White House’s last-minute involvement shook up the process.

A full-year fiscal 2024 Homeland Security bill would allow both parties to negotiate priorities, and is also expected to include a slight increase in funding over the current year’s level, to $61.8 billion, sources familiar with the subcommittee’s allocation say.

Additional funding for border and immigration-related accounts might be added in ways that do not violate the overall nondefense limits facing appropriators under last year’s debt limit and spending caps law. Rescissions of unspent funds have been discussed as potential offsets, and emergency spending designations could be used as well.

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