Congress Isn’t Done With Fiscal Fights for the Year

Congress Isn’t Done With Fiscal Fights for the Year

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

With the months-long drama over raising the debt limit now over — President Joe Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 into law on Saturday, suspending the nation’s borrowing limit until 2025 — the political world will now return to “previously scheduled programming,” as a Biden adviser described it to Mike Memoli of NBC News.

In large part, that means a pivot to the 2024 election. Yes, already. And yes, the election is still 17 months away.

“President Biden plans to use the bipartisan debt limit deal to pivot back to his shadow reelection campaign, pointing to the achievement to burnish his image with voters as a consensus-builder who’s making strides on his promise to unite the country,” Memoli writes. “His plan is to pivot from a month that was consumed by the debt standoff in Washington back to talking directly with Americans about his economic agenda, particularly legislation he has signed to fund infrastructure projects and revive domestic manufacturing, as well as outline how he envisions building on those efforts, aides said.”

Biden has already started that sales effort, citing the latest deal on the budget and debt limit as just one of 350 bipartisan laws he has signed as president.

That pivot does not mean that the fiscal fights are over for the year. As part of the deal to raise the debt limit, Biden and House Republicans agreed to create an enforcement mechanism that pressures appropriators to finalize and pass the 12 annual spending bills by the end of the year or see both defense and non-defense funding automatically cut by 1% from 2023 levels.

The last time all 12 bills were considered on the House floor separately was in fiscal year 2010 and Congress has not passed all 12 bills on time since fiscal year 1997. So it will be a challenge — one that may be made even more difficult by conservatives in the House who are still upset with Speaker Kevin McCarthy over how the debt standoff turned out. Those conservatives “can cause real problems for McCarthy over a budget resolution or appropriations bills,” John Bresnahan and Andrew Desiderio at Punchbowl News report. “They’re fundraising against their own leadership’s failure to cut spending back to FY2022 levels. They’re angry that McCarthy relied on Democrats to pass the rule for the Fiscal Responsibility Act. And they’ll seek to blow something up soon.”

In addition to the regular appropriations bills, Politico’s Daniella Diaz reports that House Republicans are expected to soon introduce “a comprehensive bill that would include tax breaks aimed at boosting economic growth.” And defense hawks in the Senate set up another likely fight later this year when they demanded a vote on a standalone supplemental military funding as part of the agreement to speed the debt deal to passage. That additional spending would include more aid for Ukraine — a point of conflict for some Republicans — but will likely include other military funding as well. Democrats may also look to attach non-defense funding to any supplemental spending bill, raising the prospect that Congress could quickly revise both sides of the caps deal it just struck.

We might as well also note here that the 2024 election will be crucial not only for determining the direction of American democracy but, as David Dayen points out at The American Prospect, it will have major fiscal stakes: “The spending caps, the Trump tax cuts, including the changes to the Child Tax Credit, the boosted subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, and this debt ceiling suspension all expire after the election, in 2025.”