Sticking points are emerging as lawmakers in both chambers of Congress negotiate a spending bill that would help avoid a government shutdown in March.
The House and Senate entered negotiations with drastically different bills with the chairs of each chamber's Appropriations Committee subcommittees – referred to as "cardinals" – tasked with crafting compromise spending proposals that can pass in a divided Congress.
House and Senate negotiators early last month reached an agreement to unlock final fiscal 2024 appropriations bills after nailing down the final defense and nondefense spending limits, Roll Call reported.
House Republicans pursued significantly lower spending levels to spending than those previously agreed to in a budget caps deal. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, went higher in their set of bills.
"The House and Senate took a very different approach at the very beginning and now we have to come together on things," Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said, The Hill reported.
In the House, the FBI, IRS, and election security assistance appear to be early points of contention in the annual appropriations talks.
"We're just not together on the allocations for those, the different marks," Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told The Hill last week. "Then, on top of that, we haven't even gone down the road of the policy riders, and there's a lot of open items right now that we got to resolve."
Womack is the cardinal for the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., one of the spending cardinals, said Wednesday that he's "optimistic" about reaching an early March deadline. He said negotiations on his bill are "moving in the right direction."
Fleischmann's subcommittee covers funding for the Department of Energy (DOE).
"There are going to be some issues, ultimately, that can't be resolved at the committee level," he said.
Such issues likely include riders that target the Biden administration's orders on diversity and inclusion and other partisan policies.
"That's going to be probably a consistent theme across all 12 bills, if you will, because we have very similar riders, some of which are very important to us and some of which are very abhorrent to the other side," Fleischmann said. "So, those are issues, ultimately, I think that our leadership will address."
In the Senate, Baldwin is the cardinal for the subcommittee that crafts the annual funding bill for agencies such the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Education.
The bill usually is one of the toughest of the 12 annual funding bills to negotiate.
Baldwin recently said "some progress" had been made in negotiations. However, senior appropriators indicate much work remains.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the top Republican on Baldwin's Senate subcommittee, said "pending" issues need to be addressed.
"Those are obviously riders and other things," Capito said. "Look, we're going back to the drawing board, assuming we can go. I wouldn't say we're at an impasse on some of the bigger issues, but a lot of the smaller issues and everything else we were able to understand."
Lawmakers must pass four funding bills by March 1 and eight annual appropriations measures by a March 8 deadline under a recent stopgap bill passed by Congress.
Charlie McCarthy ✉
Charlie McCarthy, a writer/editor at Newsmax, has nearly 40 years of experience covering news, sports, and politics.
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