Border Battle Pushes Congress Toward a Shutdown

Border Battle Pushes Congress Toward a Shutdown

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

Congressional lawmakers have until midnight Friday to pass a package of spending bills needed to keep large portions of the government from shutting down, but a lengthy dispute over funding for the Department of Homeland Security means that they may run out of time as they try beat the deadline.

With funding for about 70% of the federal government set to expire in just days, appropriators have been scrambling to finalize a “minibus” of six annual spending bills covering Defense, Labor-HHS, State-Foreign Operations, Homeland Security, the Legislative Branch and Financial Services-General Government. Five of the six measures have reportedly been finalized, but the Homeland Security funding has been the subject of some ongoing disputes and dramatic late maneuvering.

After talks on that legislation broke down last week, appropriators had reportedly been working on a year-long stopgap measure to be packaged with the five other appropriations bills. But discussions about adjustments to the stopgap also hit some snags. As Roll Call reports, those differences centered on two issues: “Republicans’ desire for more funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bed capacity, and Democrats’ push for more money for Transportation Security Administration pay raises, as TSA workers have historically been paid less than counterparts at other agencies.”

As appropriators were finalizing those matters and preparing to release their legislative text, the White House reportedly stepped in with an eleventh-hour request for an added $1.56 billion, arguing that a full-year stopgap that kept funding flat wouldn’t be enough to meet the needs at the border.

The White House intervention ultimately led appropriators back to drafting an updated Homeland Security bill for fiscal year 2024 — a shift that meant that the full text of the six-bill package would be delayed. As of Monday evening, though, the text of the package had not been released and congressional leaders reportedly did not expect to have it done today. Adding to the battle, a group of more than 40 House Republicans today sent a letter urging their colleagues to vote against the appropriations package because it does not include conservatives’ preferred border reforms.

Given that House rules allow members 72 hours to read legislation before voting on it and the Senate typically takes a day or more to process legislation, lawmakers may have little room, if any, to avoid at least a brief funding lapse. As Sahil Kapur of NBC News noted, for the shutdown deadline earlier this month, congressional leaders released the bill text Sunday night and Congress only passed the package with hours to spare.

Why it matters: Following the quick collapse of a bipartisan border security and foreign aid deal in the Senate last month, Politico’s Caitlin Emma and Jennifer Scholtes point out that the Homeland Security bill is likely the last chance to boost funding for the border this fiscal year. They also note that “the entire spending package is expected to hinge on the fate of the border and immigration negotiations, since it is politically unworkable to try to pass the homeland security bill on its own once the military and key non-defense agencies are fully funded.”

The bottom line: The delay in finalizing the six-bill spending package likely means that, at best, the House and Senate will have to rush to pass this “minibus” on Friday before they are scheduled to leave town for a two-week recess.