By Joseph Lord
The U.S. Senate on Dec. 15 passed a one-week spending bill to keep the government open as negotiations over a larger spending bill for fiscal year 2023 continue.
The bill, known in legislative parlance as a “continuing resolution,” passed the upper chamber in a 71-19 vote.
The passage of the bill came less than 36 hours before the government was set to shut down.
The short-term measure gives lawmakers more time to work out the details of a larger omnibus spending package for FY 2023. However, such a measure could face trouble in passing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed openness to passing a spending bill for FY 2023, despite demands from House Republicans—who will take the majority in the lower chamber on Jan. 3, 2023—to wait for Republicans to take the House.
“This is about taking a very simple, exceedingly responsible step to ensure we finish the year without hiccups and with minimal drama. A one-week CR will give us more time so we can keep working,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said just before passage of the temporary funding bill.
Critics have blasted Democrats for attempting to “abuse” the lame-duck session of the 117th Congress to push through an omnibus bill, an unprecedented effort.
McConnell, Other Republicans Butt Heads
Prior to the vote, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his caucus butted heads with McConnell over his openness to considering allowing Democrats to set spending levels for FY 2023.
Republican critics of the scheme warn that it would effectively allow the outgoing House Democrat majority to “tie Republicans’ hands” during the first half of the 118th Congress.
“They’re trying to jam us right before Christmas. Why would you ever move forward when there’s a change in power in 21 days where Republicans would have a stronger hand?” McCarthy said during a Dec. 13 on Sean Hannity’s primetime show. “We wouldn’t be talking about adding more money. We’d talk about decreasing.”
In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has led calls to this effect, blasted McConnell for even considering passing a full omnibus.
“I’m looking at Mitch McConnell when I say this: Do your job, leader McConnell,” Roy said. “Do your job and follow the wishes of the American people who gave a majority to Republicans in the House of Representatives.”
House Republicans are not the only ones who have called for allowing Republicans to craft the spending bill for FY 2023.
Four Republicans in the upper chamber—Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), led by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a vocal McConnell critic—also called for McConnell to hold off consideration of a full omnibus until next year.
“On November 8, 2022, the American people made their voices heard at the ballot box,” the quartet of lawmakers said in a Nov. 30 letter to McConnell. “Using the Democratic process, millions of Americans sent a message—they want divided power in Washington to curb the worst excesses of both parties.”
The proposal has also been criticized by conservative policy analysts.
“The defeated outgoing Democratic House majority is hoping some Hollywood-style flair will hide their true aim; namely, to stuff trillions of dollars in new spending down the throats of the American public,” Heritage senior analyst Richard Stern wrote in a Dec. 14 op-ed for the Daily Signal.
“There is, however, no need for such theatrics,” he added.
“Enough is enough,” Stern wrote near the end of his piece. “There is no need for such a careless and rushed omnibus. Conservatives in Congress could pass a short-term continuing resolution and carefully write new appropriations bills at the beginning of next year.”
Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the upper chamber have warned that McCarthy’s caucus will be too thin a majority to push through some Republican aspirations.
“McCarthy’s got a very thin majority and I know he knows it’s going to be hard to do some of the things they want to do,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill.
“I understand the politics of criticizing McConnell, but they need to have a relationship. McConnell’s got pretty thick skin but I think there’s a way for McCarthy to try to placate conservatives in the House without attacking McConnell,” he added.
McConnell has refrained from answering the criticisms from his colleagues in the House. However, he has insisted that passing an omnibus now is preferable to waiting for his party to take control of the lower chamber.
Speaking after a Nov. 29 meeting with McCarthy, President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), McConnell said: “We had a really good meeting. Laid out the challenges that we’re all collectively facing here. I think there’s widespread agreement that we’d be better off with an omnibus than a [continuing resolution], but there are some significant hurdles to get over to do that.”
Working out the spending bill is one of the two top priorities for legislators moving into Christmas.
In September, lawmakers passed a short-term continuing resolution that would have expired at midnight on Dec. 16.