Congress is in recess this week, with the Senate and the House returning Monday and Tuesday next week, respectively. While Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open, lawmakers still have considerable work to do to close out the year.
Congress avoided a federal government shutdown on Wednesday, passing the Furthering Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024 (H.R. 6363), which provides government funding in a two-step “laddered CR for fiscal year 2024 through January 19 for four appropriations bills and through February 2 for the remaining eight bills. President Biden signed H.R. 6363 into law on Thursday. Congress also extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through February 2, 2024, and the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization through September 30, 2024.
When Congress returns to finish the first session of the 118th Congress, several critical legislative items are left for the body to address. The operating authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was extended until December 31, which puts the FAA reauthorization at the top of the agenda for Congress. While the House passed its bill earlier this year, the Senate is still working out issues over pilot training rules. Added to the trouble is an independent panel report citing an increase in aviation near-misses and making recommendations for the FAA.
The report also calls out Congress for politically motivated government shutdowns and inadequate funding as core reasons for the challenges. Congress hopes to ride the new momentum of the confirmation of FAA administrator Michael Whitaker to finalize an authorization bill. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is must-pass legislation with over 60 years of bipartisan support. Both chambers have passed the NDAA, with the House legislation (H.R. 2670) funded at $874.2 billion and the Senate version (S. 2226) at $876.8 billion. As Congress heads to conference, more than just a few billion dollars are separating the bills. The House version has many amendments with no potential of passing in the Senate. The NDAA is likely to receive attention as one of the first legislative initiatives when Congress returns as leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been meeting for months. The previous CR extension gave Congress until September 2024 to work out a deal on the 2018 Farm Bill. Funding disagreements loom large, and neither chamber has introduced bill text. One of the major issues around the funding for the bill is for commodity support programs. Republicans want to use $20 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation and climate-smart agriculture to boost reference prices in USDA commodity programs. Congress may also act on the Biden administration’s emergency supplemental funding requests from October, including $106 billion for Israel, Ukraine, and the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bills and Regulations of Interest to You
Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act
Rep. Seth Magaziner (D-RI-2) & Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Encourages the research and use of innovative materials and associated techniques in the construction and preservation of the domestic transportation and water infrastructure system.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Interagency Research Act
Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)
Requires interagency collaboration on activities including environmental science, electric grid modernization, and rural technology development. Overall, this bipartisan legislation will develop partnerships that maximize limited federal research dollars to improve the ability to address key agricultural research needs.
Making Aid for Local Disasters Equal Now (MALDEN) Act
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5)
Ensures that a declaration for a major disaster or emergency is made on a timely basis, rural areas receive assistance.
Preserve Access to Rapid Ambulance Emergency Medical Treatment (PARA-EMT) Act
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3)
Addresses EMS staffing shortages and makes it easier for experienced veterans to transition from medics to becoming certified paramedics and EMTs.
Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11)
Allows state and local governments, nonprofits, or developers to fully deduct the cost of environmental remediation of brownfields, vacant industrial and commercial areas like gas stations that remain undeveloped because of concerns of environmental contamination.
Farm to School Act
Rep. Chris Pappas (D-VI-At Large)
Amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to reauthorize the farm to school program.
Pre-Apprenticeship Wrap-Around Support Services Fund Act
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9)
Directs the Secretary of Labor to make grants to eligible applicants to provide stipends to individuals enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program.
The Rural Partnership and Prosperity Act
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide rural partnership program grants and rural partnership technical assistance grants.
The Voter Choice Act
Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO)
Amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to support State and local governments making a transition to ranked choice voting.
The Alleviating Spaceport Traffic by Rewarding Operators (ASTRO) Act
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Establishes an intermodal transportation infrastructure pilot program.
Bill to add funds for law enforcement
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to establish a grant program to help law enforcement agencies with civilian law enforcement tasks.