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Legislative Affairs

July 21, 2023

Senate Appropriators Add $13.7 Billion Above Spending Caps

House and Senate Republicans Continue to Stymie the Biden Administration

Senate Appropriators on Thursday announced a bipartisan agreement to add $13.7 billion above the spending caps set by the Debt Limit Agreement to FY24 spending bills for both defense and domestic priorities. Senate Appropriations Chair Murray and Ranking Member Collins announced their intention to add $8 billion in defense spending and $5.7 billion in domestic spending. This decision comes as both House and Senate Appropriations Committees race to complete committee action on their respective versions of the FY24 appropriations bills before the August recess, a process which has seen increasingly heated debates in the House Appropriations Committee. As a reminder, the House has been marking up bills to spending levels well below the benchmark reached in the Debt Limit Agreement and adding numerous policy riders, so the gap continues to widen between the House and Senate with just weeks to go before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2023. To track all the FY2024 appropriations developments please refer to the Congressional Research Service FY2024 Appropriations status table here.

Here’s what else you may have missed this week:

Republican Senators are blocking a growing list of Biden nominees. Senators J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are taking a page from Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) playbook (who is blocking Department of Defense nominations over abortion policy) and blocking dozens of Biden Administration nominees to serve as U.S. ambassadors to a variety of countries. Most of these nominees are career Foreign Service officers, the types of nominees who typically sail through the Senate unimpeded. But Senators Vance and Paul are blocking these nominations to protest diversity initiatives in the Department of State and a lack of investigations on the origins of COVID-19, respectively. Other Senators critical of these actions have said that it is weakening America’s position in the world as adversaries have better and more direct relationships to other countries than we do. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has even threatened to have Senators work through the August recess to clear the log jam and go through the parliamentary processes to get these positions filled. Perhaps the threat will be enough to move the needle, but Republicans have seemed determined to keep the Biden Administration from getting any easy wins this year.

Speaker McCarthy reportedly promised to hold a vote to expunge former President Trump’s impeachments. As first reported exclusively by Politico earlier this week, Speaker McCarthy may have made assurances that the House would vote to expunge Trump’s record perhaps as early as next week. These promises were made privately, apparently in response to a growing spat between the embattled former-president and Speaker McCarthy over him refusing an endorsement this early in the Republican Presidential Primary. See the full article from Politico here.

House investigations continue, including IRS whistleblowers and a review of the DOJ. On Wednesday, House Republicans continued investigating the Biden Administration, holding a hearing with IRS whistleblowers to look into alleged pressure from the Department of Justice in seeking reduced penalties for President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, for tax fraud and gun charges to which he has plead guilty. The two IRS whistleblowers claimed during the House Oversight Committee Hearing that the investigation was slow-walked and given preferential treatment by the U.S. Attorney overseeing the case. This hearing in many ways was designed to build the case for an impeachment of Attorney General Merrick Garland or even President Biden, although many observers feel the hearing lacked any significant new revelations to make that outcome likely.

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