The clock is ticking. Congress has returned to Washington, D.C., with just a handful of working days remaining to pass legislation to fund the government or face a shutdown on Oct. 1.
We shouldn’t be in this situation. In June, President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders reached a budget deal that established parameters for government spending in Fiscal Year 2024. Holding to this agreement, the Senate has worked in a bipartisan fashion to advance all 12 of their annual spending bills out of committee.
Meanwhile, in the House, a small group of Republican hardliners have threatened to block their party’s appropriations bills if their colleagues do not agree to further reduce spending below agreed-upon levels. The cuts they are calling for are extreme and would dramatically impact everything from anti-poverty programs in the United States to peacebuilding initiatives worldwide.
This narrow faction of lawmakers is once again holding the operations of the federal budget hostage, just as they did during debt ceiling negotiations earlier this year.
What Happens Next?
Congress has two potential paths before them.
Option 1: Pass a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30. A continuing resolution offers a short-term extension of current spending. By passing a CR, lawmakers give themselves more time to advance their spending bills for FY2024 through their usual process and negotiate the differences between the House and Senate proposals. This is a normal practice and a responsible way to ensure that programs that people rely on continue to operate.
Option 2: Shut down the government. The current budget for FY2023 runs out on Sept. 30. After that date, if a CR is not passed, the government will begin to shut down. As we head into the fall, this will seriously impact critical federal programs millions of people rely upon.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed without pay. A prolonged shutdown could trigger cutbacks and waitlists for critical anti-hunger initiatives that serve vulnerable seniors, mothers and newborn babies, and Native American communities living on reservations. Programs that are funded annually—like those to prevent conflict and atrocities globally or ensure emergency shelter for migrants who are seeking safety in the United States, could be interrupted.
No one should want a government shutdown. Disrupting critical programs to win political points is bad for the economy and for households throughout the country. For that same reason, lawmakers must not give in to the demand for extreme cuts in spending that could harm these essential programs.
Our Message to Congress: Pass a Clean CR, Then Protect and Invest in Peace
The advocacy of FCNL lobbyists and advocates helped keep many harmful cuts and provisions out of the budget deal lawmakers established earlier this year.
Since then, the pressure to reduce spending has fallen especially hard on initiatives that advance peace and diplomacy. The efforts of FCNL’s Advocacy Teams have been crucial in protecting funding for life-saving programs that prevent conflict and atrocities worldwide in the appropriations process so far.
We must continue working together to protect investments in critical programs that prevent violence and heal communities. By amplifying the importance of peacebuilding, we can ensure that Congress continues to invest in these life-saving initiatives.
While we do our part as advocates, lawmakers must do theirs. Members of Congress should work to fund the government responsibly, oppose backdoor efforts to impose harsh cuts beyond those already agreed to, and instead invest in our country’s needs.