Washington Watch: One step forward, one back on appropriations


The House broke early for Thanksgiving after passing a bill to keep the government open past November 17, but suspended further consideration of the all-important fiscal year (FY) 2024 Labor, HHS and Education (LHHS-ED) appropriations bill.

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a “continuing resolution (CR)” that extends FY 23 funding levels further into FY 24. The government is currently operating under a CR that expires on November 17. Nearly all House Democrats joined a slim majority of House Republicans in voting for the measure.

The CR takes a unique “laddered” approach by extending current funding levels for some federal agencies until January 19 and for other agencies, including the departments of Education and Labor, until February 2. Final funding legislation, or another CR, must be passed by those dates to keep the applicable agencies operating beyond those dates.

The CR also contained a one-year extension of the Farm Bill, so community college advocacy on that legislation will continue into the new year.

Dim prospects

Relying on Democratic votes to pass a CR is the same approach that ultimately cost Rep. Kevin McCarthy the House speakership, but there does not seem to be any immediate threat to new Speaker Mike Johnson. However, the fact that the CR does not cut spending nor contain policy provisions relating to immigration and other issues was very unpopular with the Republican party’s conservative wing. On Wednesday, House conservatives protested the CR vote by joining Democrats in blocking the Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill from coming to the House floor.

The House also started considering the LHHS-ED appropriations bill, voting on dozens of amendments, but ultimately there was not enough Republican support to pass the bill this week (Democrats are uniformly opposed to the bill). Some moderate Republicans opposed the bill because its spending cuts were too deep and it contained controversial policy riders on issues like abortion, while some conservative Republicans felt the spending cuts were not deep enough. While the bill may come back to the House floor after Thanksgiving, it is unlikely to be ultimately passed.

About the Author

Jim Hermes
Jim Hermes is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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