What’s left for Congress with Ukraine aid done

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The News

It cost them one speaker (and counting), but the most chaotic Congress in memory managed to raise the debt ceiling without incident, fund the government without a shutdown, and eventually pass a national security package that included Ukraine aid.

But there’s still over eight months to go before they pass the baton to the 119th Congress and still some must-pass legislation to overcome, along with some maybe-pass priorities like AI legislation and a bipartisan tax bill. Here’s what the current agenda looks like.

Budget and appropriations. Speaker Mike Johnson’s currently laser-focused on passing a budget that sets the stage for appropriations bills, Semafor was told. The hard-sought minibus that passed under suspension last month will expire Sept. 30, setting up a renewed Colosseum-style showdown to fund the government for fiscal year 2025. Republicans, with their razor-thin majority, will likely seek help from Democrats across the aisle to get anything through. Over on the Senate side, members are wary after last year’s drama, which included Republicans backing off a prior spending agreement — a major precipitating incident to Kevin McCarthy’s ouster. “We need to get them done on time,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, said. “I don’t like to worry about the House because the House is crazy.”

Farm Bill. Last November, Congress reauthorized a short-term extension to give the Agriculture Committee more time to draft a bill. Chair G.T. Thomson, R-Pa., told Semafor he anticipates the committee to produce a bill before Memorial Day. Expect more contention over SNAP benefits: President Biden increased during COVID via executive order and Republicans have sought to trim costs with formula changes. “Contrary to the fear mongers, the GOP plan will not cut, reduce, or impact anyone’s SNAP benefit,” committee spokesman Ben Goldey told Semafor, adding that their upcoming bill “creates a firewall to protect against future unilateral expansions.”

Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA’s funding authority is set to lapse on May 10. While the House has already passed its own five-year reauthorization bill, the full Senate has yet to put its version on the floor. Pilot training was a hang-up in the upper chamber, but Senate leader Chuck Schumer announced Congress had reached an agreement on a 1,500 training flight hour requirement.

National Defense Authorization Act. Congress reauthorized the defense bill under suspension last year after hard-right Republicans refused to vote it out of the Rules Committee without partisan amendments on abortion, transgender medical care, and DEI. Expect those culture wars to continue, along with some battles related to Israel and Ukraine, according to three House aides familiar with members’ thinking. And once again, expect their appeal to be limited to the same players in the House: “Nobody in the Senate is trying to score culture war points in a presidential election year,” a senior Republican Senate aide told Semafor.

Baltimore bridge collapse. President Biden has committed the federal government to picking up the full tab of the cost of rebuilding the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed outside Baltimore last month. OMB Director Shalanda Young recently sent a letter urging Congress to authorize a 100% federal cost share to repair the bridge, in line with previous bridge collapses.

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One thing the House will likely not have to deal with: Picking a new speaker. Democrats who spoke to Politico overwhelmingly signaled their members would protect Johnson from an attempt by his Republican critics to oust him over the Ukraine aid package.

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