Congress Passes 45-Day Spending Bill; Punts on Immigration
FAIR Take | October 2023
Late Saturday night, President Biden signed a 45-day Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the government at current levels until November 17. The CR passed both the House and the Senate on Saturday after several weeks of discord and disagreement in the House about how to proceed.
House Speaker Keven McCarthy was working on two tracks last week. First, he was trying to move forward a CR that would temporarily fund the government while the House pushed forward traditional appropriations bills for the various government departments. FAIR and our coalition allies were successful in convincing House Leadership to attach a majority of H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, to that continuing resolution to force the Senate to act on border security. H.R. 2 passed earlier in the year by the House of Representatives and includes many critical reforms to our immigration system, such as tightening the rules for claiming asylum and strictly limiting parole to its original intent, among other things.
However, at the same time, several conservative Republicans within the House GOP caucus were upset that the regular appropriations bills had not been finished and had not moved through the House, as was promised when Speaker McCarthy was elected in January. They argued that the House should cut spending and that the appropriations bills should move through regular order, not be combined into one, massive legislative monstrosity that was voted on in the middle of the night. For those reasons, they opposed voting for a CR.
On Friday, with the border crisis intensifying every day and many members of the House GOP demanding action on immigration, Speaker McCarthy placed on the House floor a Continuing Resolution to fund the government that both trimmed overall spending levels and included reforms from H.R. 2. That vote failed when 21 Republicans decided they would still not support it.
After the collapse of this CR on the floor, House Republicans conferenced behind closed doors for an extended period of time. According to various reports, much anger was expressed that Republicans had not held the line on spending. Other Republicans were upset that their efforts to move critical border legislation had been stymied. No clear path forward emerged.
On Saturday, Speaker McCarthy changed strategies. Wanting to keep the government open, he placed on the House floor a “clean” Continuing Resolution to fund the government for 45 days—without any reductions in spending and without H.R. 2 provisions. In addition, he placed it on the floor using the suspension calendar, which requires bills to receive a 2/3 majority vote to pass. In essence, Speaker McCarthy was counting on Democrats to support the measure in order for it to pass.
The clean CR did indeed pass the full House on Saturday afternoon by a vote of 335-91. The House then sent it to the Senate where it passed by a vote of 88-9. Saturday night, President Biden signed the CR into law, keeping the government open for another 45 days.
For immigration reformers, Congress’ failure to act on immigration while the border crisis rages is unconscionable. FAIR President Dan Stein remarked: “The CR passed today allows President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to continue their open-borders agenda, and actually provides them the opportunity to abuse our immigration laws to help facilitate the entry of illegal aliens. The status quo is not acceptable, and only policy changes will avert the crisis that the American people and communities across the country see today.”
“Between now and November 17,” Stein said, “House leaders must make it clear that any spending agreements for FY 2024 must include H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act. What took place over the last few days was a missed opportunity to address a full-fledged crisis. The nation cannot afford to wait. Congress has failed us once. It must use the next 45 days to act.”