What to Watch for as Congress Returns in 2024

January 2, 2024

Congress will return next week for a jam-packed legislative session filled with key deadlines, lingering disagreements, and policy opportunities. Here’s a look at what to watch for as lawmakers get ready to gavel in for the second session of the 118th Congress:

  • Government Funding. Congress faces two government funding deadlines to kick off the first quarter of 2024, with the first one approaching on January 19. Despite some hopes of progress on reaching a deal for topline spending figures, lawmakers left for the holidays without an agreement amid several disagreements between House and Senate leadership. If appropriations “cardinals” cannot strike an accord over these next three weeks, expect lawmakers to try to punt all 12 funding measures later into the year.


  • Spending Cuts. In addition to avoiding a shutdown, bipartisan cooperation will be needed to avert automatic spending cuts from the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). Specifically, the 2023 debt ceiling package includes a penalty for the use of a continuing resolution (CR) in fiscal year (FY) 2024 that reduces defense and nondefense funding levels by 1 percent if appropriations bills are not enacted by January. This cut would take effect at the beginning of May through a sequestration order to be issued by April 30, 2024, thus providing Congress with less than three months to nix the sequestration penalty.


  • Supplemental Appropriations. Senate negotiators furiously tried to clinch a deal on a supplemental funding package that would include various tranches of money for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, as well as security efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite staying in session for an extra week before the holidays, the bipartisan Senate group was unable to produce legislative text of the deal due to “complex” issues related to border policy. The White House was also seeking additional appropriations for a host of domestic priorities such as disaster relief, child care funding, wildland firefighter pay, and more.


  • Health Package. Prior to adjourning for the year, the House took an important vote that could tee up action on a sweeping health care package in the first quarter of this year. The Lower Costs, More Transparency Act was sent to the Senate in December 2023 with the hopes that it could be leveraged to carry additional health care priorities early this year. This includes: (1) addressing scheduled cuts to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS); (2) reauthorization of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act; (3) reforms, oversight, and transparency requirements for pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans; and (4) other bipartisan policies to address drug shortages, antimicrobial resistance, workforce needs, health IT, and more.


  • FAA Reauthorization. President Biden signed a short-term extension for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) late last year, extending the agency’s funding to March 8, 2024. While the House passed the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s bill with bipartisan support last year, the Senate Commerce Committee remains stuck in neutral due to disputes over pilot training, drone policy, and DCA perimeter slots. As such, expect T&I Committee Chair Sam Graves (R-MO) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) to press the Senate to take up the House-passed FAA reauthorization in lieu of another short-term extension.


  • Other Odds & Ends. In addition to these aforementioned items, lawmakers must address other programs that are set to expire in early 2024, including the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will also work to produce a long-term Farm Bill ahead of the September 30 deadline for these programs. Additionally, Congress faces an April 19 deadline to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).