Big challenges await U.S. Congress in 2024: FISA, spending bill, border, aid for Ukraine, Israel

Biden proposed a $106 billion supplemental spending package for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border-related efforts that congressional negotiators are currently debating in the hopes of reaching an agreement.

Published: December 24, 2023 11:27pm

Updated: January 3, 2024 3:43pm

Congress faces at least four big challenges when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C. in the new year. The most significant of these include a supplemental foreign aid package, additional U.S. border security funding, another federal spending bill and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) section 702 reform, which are all pending items that Congress has waiting for them to tackle in 2024.

Foreign Aid to Ukraine, Israel, Palestinians

In October, the White House proposed a funding package to Congress that would include roughly $61 billion for war in Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel's fight against Hamas, $9 billion for humanitarian assistance related to Palestinian refugees and $13 billion for U.S. border-related efforts. The total proposed package totaled about $106 billion.

Congressional and White House negotiators are still hashing out the details of the final package. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that a deal hasn't been reached just yet but told reporters that the negotiators are getting closer.

Border Security

The border security component of the package has become an issue of contention between Democrats and Republicans. House and Senate Republicans are pushing for negotiators to include a significant portion of H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, which passed the GOP-led House in May. The legislation would make "various changes to immigration law, including by imposing limits on asylum eligibility and requiring employers to use an electronic system to verify the employment eligibility of new employees," according to an official bill summary.

"The Senate has literally sat on it, the president has sat on it, the president has no intention of making this into law, as a matter of fact, to the point where they say, 'we're not even going to combine it with other things that we want, because we don't want any compromise in securing our border,'" said Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., on the "Just the News, Not Noise" TV program. "Now, this comes at a great political cost to him, and he is going to lose the election on this single issue, if nothing else, and there's lots to pick on."

Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., said the amount of encounters of suspected terrorists by border patrol should be addressed with changes in immigration policy.

"I do believe that we're definitely, we're not very far from seeing attacks on the homeland again, because we've been very foolish with our immigration policy and our, quite frankly, completely open borders," he said on the Just the News Not Noise TV program.

Republicans have been critical of the way the Biden administration has handled the southern border, given the record amount of illegal immigrant encounters taking place since the president took office. On Tuesday it was reported that there were at least 12,600 illegal crossings in a 24-hour period, which set a new record.

Conservative Republicans wrote a letter to GOP Senate leaders this week requesting that they open up the negotiators over the White House's requested supplemental spending bill to the entire Senate GOP conference rather than a select group, citing the border crisis as one of their main concerns that should be addressed.

"Negotiations on border security continue to make headway," McConnell said on Wednesday. "Our colleagues at the negotiating table are under no illusions about how difficult it is to fix our nation's broken asylum and parole system."

FISA Reauthorization

Several FISA reform bills were introduced in Congress and two were headed for a floor vote in the House. After the scheduled vote, House Speaker Mike Johnson pulled the reform bills from consideration due to disagreements among House Republicans.

The defense authorization bill that later passed included temporary FISA reauthorization through April 19. Congress will continue debating reform of section 702 of FISA when they reconvene in early January. The controversial section 702 of the law deals with warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens abroad. 

Government spending

Congress passed a "laddered" temporary Continuing Resolution in November to keep the government funded through early next year but they need to pass an additional spending bill. The laddered CR includes two separate appropriations expiration dates: January 19 or February 2.

House and Senate leaders both have to agree on spending levels for the rest of fiscal year 2024, which concludes at the end of September. House conservatives have been pushing for domestic spending reductions to cut the budget deficit while Senate Democrats have argued against reducing spending.

"No one campaigned on the status quo," Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said when the last CR passed. "No one campaigned on sustaining the spending levels or policies that have been implemented by Biden, Schumer and Pelosi and that's what this does until January and February but it really does worse," he added, referencing the bill's 1-year extension of the farm bill.

The farm bill, which funds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called "the food stamp" program, is normally passed as separate standalone legislation that covers a 5-year period.

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