Washington Update - February 26, 2024

Billy Moore    Dc2

The Senate reconvenes Monday and the House Wednesday as a shutdown looms on Friday for the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Energy, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and parts of the Department of Defense. Unless Congress acts, the rest of government will shut down on March 8.

Appropriators have reached agreement on most of the money items involved in the first tranche of appropriations, but House and Senate leaders have yet to resolve policy riders. On Friday night, Speaker Mike Johnson noted to his caucus that hardline conservatives have weakened his ability to drive policy bargains with Democrats. The hardliners are demanding the inclusion of poison pill social issue riders in a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR), a proposal that would eliminate the bipartisanship needed to enact the bills.

The outcome mostly depends on Speaker Johnson’s leadership. Should he work with House Democrats and a bipartisan Senate to avoid a shutdown, similar to his deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on overall spending totals at the beginning of 2024, he can avoid a shutdown. Should he go along with the hardliners, a shutdown will be the almost certain result.

Should Johnson choose the bipartisan path, an interim result might be a short-term CR through March 22.

The timing of Senate action on any appropriations legislation might be complicated by the House presentation of articles of impeachment for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. While Senate Democrats will probably move to dismiss the articles, some Republicans want to force a full trial.

The star witness in the House impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden was indicted last week for lying to the FBI in making bribery allegations against the Biden family, with some of his information linked to Russian intelligence, leading some House Republicans to suggest they would vote against impeachment on the floor.