118th Congress Enters New, Complicated Phase with Increasing Debt Ceiling Urgency and Looming Banking Crisis

When the Senate returns today and the House tomorrow, Congress will begin a new, more complicated phase of the 118th Congress. 

There are things Congress must do.  Congress must pass annual spending bills in some form or fashion to keep the government open.  It also must raise the debt ceiling to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt.  In the next few weeks, the work on both gets serious.  The immediate pressure is on House Republicans.  In order to draft individual spending bills, the Appropriations Committee needs to know how much money they have to spend.  The technical term is the 302 (a) allocation.  But basically, House Republicans must decide how much they want to restrain spending in the discretionary budget.  And then the appropriators can write the individual bills to the numbers.  Procedurally, these numbers come from the budget resolution, which goes through the Budget Committee and then to the House floor.  A budget resolution is always a purely partisan bill – Democrats are not going to vote for the Republican budget resolution.  Republicans hold a four-seat majority – they must keep virtually all Republicans united in order to pass a budget.  If the budget cuts to much spending in popular areas, they risk losing votes from vulnerable and/or moderate Members of their conference.  If they don’t cut enough, they risk losing votes from more conservative Members who believe they were promised a vote on a budget that cuts discretionary spending by as much as $130 billion. 

This is not a challenge that is suddenly popping up.  It has been apparent since the 15-ballot speaker vote.  But until now, it has been a problem for down the road.  As the calendar turns to April, it becomes a task for the here and now.  What no one did foresee was a banking crisis hitting just as the House begins serious work on setting a budget.  It adds a new variable and additional pressure to an already complicated April.


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