If you thought battling debt was tough, get ready for spending season

President Joe Biden and Chairman Kevin McCarthy’s debt deal should have made it easier to fight incoming funding this fall. Instead, the opposite happened.

Congressional spendthrift leaders who – in theory – could have used the spending cuts outlined in the bipartisan debt deal now find themselves in a more onerous position as various factions on the Hill push to evade the terms of the Biden-McCarthy agreement. And senior lawmakers have only a narrow window to craft a dozen spending bills that can pass both houses, facing a tight time crunch less than four months before government funding runs out.

Several groups of lawmakers are trying to revise the debt agreement’s funding caps. House Tories, accusing McCarthy of reneging on secret promises and cutting a botched deal with Biden, closed the floor last week as they argued for deeper cuts than those agreed to by the duo. Senate Republicans are also looking for a way around budget caps, in order to add money to the Pentagon and Ukraine. And Democrats are looking for ways to ensure priorities like disaster relief and immigration programs aren’t overlooked.

Conservative rebellion and competing calls for more money are only deepening fears of a risky finale to the spending fight this fall. As the threat of a government shutdown looms at the end of September, some lawmakers are avoiding predictions after Congress successfully passed the debt limits package ahead of a catastrophic US default.

“Who knows what will happen? I mean, Jesus,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the top Democrat who oversees defense spending. “We should celebrate that we didn’t shoot ourselves in the head.”

Tester is clamoring to start working with his Republican counterpart, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, to split the biggest pot of annual cash: the defense funding bill, which is expected to total more than $800 billion.

“I have tremendous respect for Susan. We’re going to work together. We’re going to find a solution,” Tester said.

Collins, also the Senate’s top Republican ownership official, and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both expressed hope that Congress can exceed the $886 billion defense cap. dollars provided in the debt limit package. These two, and many other senators, want Congress to pass an additional spending bill that would inject additional funds into efforts to counter Russian and Chinese aggression.

But their call for more money puts them at odds with McCarthy, who questioned the need for an additional package that would undermine the House GOP’s original goal of cutting spending.

Adding to the divisiveness, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are eager to avoid a debt pact provision that would mandate a 1% funding cut next year if homeowners can’t strike a deal to fund the government and resort to a short- term patch.

Collins and her Democratic counterpart, Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (Wash.), are moving forward — publicly committing to a more bipartisan and transparent appropriations process than lawmakers have seen in years. In the past, Senate spending chiefs have often failed to get all 12 bills through committee, then bundled them into one gigantic bundle.

Murray and Collins say they hope to start scoring annual expense bills later this month.

But it’s an ambitious timetable for homeowners who are still digesting the details of the debt-limiting package while Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are demanding further concessions. The legislation lifts the country’s borrowing limit until January 2025, in addition to setting overall government funding limits for the next two years.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) said she’s unsure if Republican owners would flout the budget caps included in the two-year deal, like some hardliners GOP leaders are pushing for tens of billions of dollars in additional government funding cuts for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

“We don’t know yet,” Granger said of his spending plans during a brief interview last week. “We don’t know what we are doing.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who oversees IRS funding, said it would be “a sign of very bad faith” if House Republicans drafted spending bills with totals lower than those fixed in the debt agreement.

“It’s going to be very important that they stick to their agreement with the president,” he said.

Granger recently halted House spending increases in an effort to give McCarthy maximum leverage in his negotiations with Biden. Some officials, however, acknowledged that Republicans were unsure whether they could muster enough support for the bills in the deeply divided conference. Those increases are expected to resume this week, according to a House GOP aide.

“I’m ready to go. I was ready to go two weeks ago,” Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the appropriations committee, said. “Where are we?”

If House GOP leaders decide to cut those agreed-upon spending totals, they could bolster conservative support — but also make it astronomically harder to strike a bicameral deal with the Senate.

“It’s going to be a tricky dance,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who chairs the House panel responsible for funding the Departments of Education and Labor, as well as Health and Human Services. social.

“We have to adopt the invoices. That’s the goal,” Aderholt said. “Obviously, as Republicans, it’s always good to try to do some cutting. Of course, my bill will probably take a lot of the cuts. But I think we’ll get through this.”

Like Aderholt, key appropriation officials across the Capitol are eager for party leaders to finish haggling over total spending and policy strategy, so they can take concrete steps to draft and debate government funding bills.

“Clearly we’re going to move as quickly as we have in years,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who chairs the spending panel that funds the State Department and programs of foreign aid.

But regardless of the owners’ best intentions, passing the 12 spending bills in both the House and the Senate is a heavy burden. Senate Republicans have pushed Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) to commit to the intent of the debt deal by backing away from the usual practice of finally squeezing the dozen measures into a massive fundraising program known as the omnibus.

Schumer and McConnell said in a statement hours before the Senate passed the debt deal that “leaders will seek and facilitate ground consideration of these bills with the cooperation of senators from both parties.”

Collins has previously said the Senate may have to pass the bills in small funding groups, or “minibuses.”

Schumer “loves the omnibus like the devil loves sin,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the top Republican on the panel that funds Department of Energy and Water programs. “Because he can control all the expenses, and he can hide a lot of the expenses.

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