On January 18, in the face of a looming government shutdown, Congress passed a third continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded at fiscal year 2023 levels until early March 2024. Similar to November, the CR faced opposition from the House Freedom Caucus, but passed both chambers with bipartisan support.
The continuing resolution maintains House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) new laddered approach, extending the deadline for four appropriations bills (Agriculture; Energy-Water; Military Construction-Veterans Affairs; and Transportation-HUD) through March 1st, and March 8th for all remaining bills (including Labor-HHS, which funds AmeriCorps). This new CR gives Congress six more weeks to complete the FY24 appropriations process, but it did not include any supplemental funding for international or domestic policy priorities.
Earlier this month, congressional leaders took a key step to break the appropriations logjam by agreeing to topline discretionary spending levels for fiscal year 2024. The $1.66 trillion agreement largely left the Fiscal Responsibility Act – the debt ceiling agreement between President Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – intact, with $886 billion for defense (3% increase over FY23 enacted) and $772 billion for nondefense accounts (essentially flat funding for the nondefense programs).
The next step is for the Appropriations Leadership – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) – to decide how the topline agreement will be split among the twelve subcommittees. With their 302(b) allocations in hand, the appropriators can start writing the individual spending bills and deciding how to distribute the funds among each department, agency, and program in their jurisdiction before the March 1 and March 8 deadlines. For several bills – like Labor-HHS – those negotiations are expected to be a challenge, considering the vast differences between the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills that were drafted over the summer. Additionally, House conservatives are still hoping to attach policy riders to the individual spending bills, to secure major policy wins such as anti-abortion provisions and immigration restrictions.
The House has proposed a $660.9 million or 50% cut to AmeriCorps, while the Senate has proposed level funding across program accounts. In total, the original drafts of the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills are $602 million apart when it comes to AmeriCorps, and both chambers are recommending funding levels well below President Biden’s FY24 request for AmeriCorps ($1.479 billion). If the proposed House cuts are included in the final Labor-HHS bill, as many as 61,000 AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors positions could be eliminated. A group of 25 lawmakers sent a letter to House leadership on February 9th raising the alarm about these devastating cuts and urging them to preserve funding for CNCS “at a level that will protect the current number of AmeriCorps member positions.” The letter, led by Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), can be found here.