Nov 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Senate aims to clear national security backlog in final 2023 stretch

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday laid out a jam packed, national security-focused agenda for the Senate as returns for its last three weeks of 2023.

Why it matters: Congress is grappling with an array of foreign crises including wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, but dysfunction in the House has hamstrung its ability to legislate.

  • Schumer appeared to threaten to keep the Senate in session past its Dec. 15 adjournment date, telling senators to “be prepared to stay in Washington until we finish our work.”

Driving the news: Schumer sent out a "dear colleague" letter to senators laying out his plans for when the Senate returns on Monday.

These include:

  • The first tranche of appropriations bills for agencies whose funding is set to expire on Jan. 19 under the stopgap spending bill Congress passed earlier this month.
  • An emergency aid package with funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and potentially border security, which Schumer said will get a vote "as soon as the week of December 4th."
  • The National Defense Authorization Act, a "must-pass" annual bill that sets military spending levels and policy for the coming year.
  • An all-senators classified briefing on Ukraine's efforts to repel a Russian invasion that Schumer said will occur "in the coming days."
  • A resolution to try to pass hundreds of military promotions that have been blocked by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) for months in protest of a Pentagon policy reimbursing service members for abortion-related costs.
  • Confirming President Biden's nominees for executive branch positions and federal judgeships.

What he's saying: "We have a lot that the Senate must get done before the end of the year. Just as we have done all year, it will take bipartisan cooperation to move these bills through the Senate," Schumer wrote.

  • He warned senators to "expect long days and nights, and potentially weekends in December."

What we're watching: Many of Schumer's plans enjoy bipartisan support in the Senate, where Republicans tend to be more hawkish on national security. The real snag is the more isolationist, Republican-controlled House.

  • Under newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), the House passed a standalone $14.3 billion military aid package to Israel that, to the fury of Democrats, included equivalent cuts to IRS funding.
  • As with the annual appropriations bills, any supplemental spending bill passed by the Senate will likely be subject to heated negotiations with the House.
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