Senators will begin spending bill markups in July

The Senate is moving ahead on annual spending bills despite lacking a bipartisan agreement on funding totals — starting markups next month, Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray said Tuesday.

The committee will hold its first fiscal 2025 markup when the upper chamber returns from the July Fourth recess, she said in a floor speech.

The Washington Democrat added that she hopes both sides will resolve their weeks-long impasse over funding totals, which has affected all 12 spending bills for next fiscal year. Democrats and Republicans have been feuding over whether defense and domestic programs should receive equal budget boosts.

And with federal cash set to expire on Oct. 1 and a presidential election approaching, Congress will almost certainly have to pass a so-called continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown later this fall. That would punt current funding levels and buy more time for bipartisan, bicameral government funding talks after Nov. 5.

“Last year, we were able to produce strong, bipartisan bills in committee, and I am hopeful we will be able to do the same again this year,” Murray said, according to prepared remarks.

The parity problem: Democrats and Republicans have been at a stalemate over whether lawmakers should blow through funding caps established by last summer’s debt deal in order to provide equal funding increases for the Pentagon and domestic programs, allowing agencies to keep pace with inflation.

The budget deal struck by President Joe Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy last summer allows for a 1 percent budget hike for both defense and non-defense programs. Republicans argue that’s woefully inadequate for the military, while Democrats have been firm that any significant funding increase for defense above the caps must be met with an equal increase for non-defense programs.

“Now, I am glad so many of my Republican colleagues are in strong agreement — at least when it comes to defense,” Murray said. “But every senator calling to boost defense spending alone is seriously missing the point, and any Senator who thinks I will let us leave non-defense spending behind is seriously misreading the situation.”

Consequences of the caps: Murray stressed that a mere 1 percent increase for domestic programs means families on federal food assistance will suffer, rural families could lose their homes, federal law enforcement agencies will slash positions, federal firefighters will see a pay cut, and more.

“I can’t emphasize enough that, under the caps for non-defense, everything struggles to keep up with rising costs,” Murray said. “Programs our kids, the future of our country, depend on — public schools, public health and nutrition assistance to name a few — can’t get by on one percent.”

Key context: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, has already proposed tweaking annual defense policy legislation to reflect a $55 billion boost for the military next fiscal year. But any extra money will ultimately be delivered through the Pentagon’s annual spending bill.

Last year, Senate appropriators approved their funding totals for a dozen spending bills along party lines before passing all of their bills in committee, with mostly bipartisan support, for the first time in five years.

The upper chamber could still manage to reach an agreement that allows the committee to mark up and pass bipartisan bills in the coming weeks. But time is running short before August recess.