By Mark Tapscott
Senate Democrats, joined by 22 Republicans, approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) Thursday afternoon that would keep the federal government from closing on Friday, the last day of the 2022 Fiscal Year.
With the 72-25 vote, the CR that maintains current spending levels through Dec. 16 also provides more than $15 billion in additional U.S. aid to Ukraine in its war against the invading Russian military.
The CR adds $1 billion more for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $2 billion in emergency disaster aid assistance. There are also provisions making $2.5 billion available in compensation for victims of a devastating New Mexico wildfire. There is $20 million to deal with a water crisis in the Jackson, Mississippi, municipal system and $112 million for enhanced security at federal courthouses.
Because the CR only keeps the government open until Dec. 16, the present Congress will return after the Nov. 8 election for a “lame duck” session that will be dominated by debate over an omnibus spending bill to complete the 2023 federal budget.
The omnibus measure will provide Democrats of the 117th Congress their last opportunity to set federal spending levels for 2023 and thereafter. The 118th Congress convenes Jan. 3, 2023.
The House is expected to approve the CR on Friday and President Joe Biden will sign it into law. At that point, Congress will leave town, as senators and representatives head home to campaign in the mid-term election on Nov. 8.
All 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate’s 100 seats are up for grabs. Republicans are expected to regain the majority in the House as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) reign as third-in-line in the presidential succession comes to an end after two years with a narrow seven-vote majority.
The Senate is split evenly with 50 Democrats (counting two Independents who vote with them) and Republicans have 50, with Vice-President Kamala Harris breaking ties and giving her party the razor-thin majority. Republicans are cautiously optimistic about their chances of regaining the Senate majority.
The CR includes $19 billion in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) coffers in the wake of severe damage inflicted in Puerto Rico and Florida by Hurricane Ian. The storm is also expected to cause additional flooding in the Carolinas and Virginia as it heads up the Atlantic Coast after pummeling Florida.
A potential roadblock on the CR’s road to Senate passage was resolved earlier in the day when Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) agreed to withdraw his request to be allowed to offer an amendment on the Senate floor.
That amendment would have required notification of Congress as soon as the 38th state adopts a resolution calling for a new constitutional convention that would, among much else, consider a constitutional amendment mandating the federal government to have a balanced budget in all peace times. So far, the movement that began in 2013 to convene the convention has 18 states supporting the call.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to give Braun 10 minutes of floor time to pitch his proposal in return for the Indiana Republican withdrawing his amendment request.
Braun told reporters that Republicans “have to be for something that we stand for, and we got to all be willing to pay for it without borrowing from future generations, which we’re currently doing.”
The federal government has spent more than it received in revenues every year since 2001. The deficit for 2001 was $2.77 trillion and is expected to be bigger when the spending for 2022 is finally tallied.
On Sept. 27, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) withdrew his proposal to speed up federal permitting for new energy exploration and production that was originally included in the CR.
The Manchin proposal, which would also speed up approvals for infrastructure projects such as new electricity transmission lines to carry power from wind and solar sources, drew stout opposition from Senate Republicans and many of the chamber’s most liberal Democrats.
The permitting proposal could be added to a defense spending bill that Congress still must complete during the Lame Duck session, but the prospects for passage aren’t likely to improve because most of the West Virginian’s party colleagues oppose it.
Three Republican senators—Mike Lee of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Marco Rubio of Florida—did not vote.