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Stephen Boyd: THE MONDAY BRIEF, Dec. 11, 2023

Stephen Boyd’s weekly Capitol Hill briefing for Alabama’s business, financial, defense and
government affairs executives.

The Schedule…

The House of Representatives and the Senate each return to Washington for legislative activity
this week and Congress is expected to wrap up work for the year by Friday. A three-week recess
for the holidays then follows with senators and representatives expected to return to
Washington the week of January 8, 2024.

Recapping the Big Accomplishments of the 118th Congress…

As this is the last THE MONDAY BRIEF of 2023, it would be reasonable to take time to
summarize the biggest accomplishments of the 118th Congress so far. But that would be an
exceptionally short article.

In 2023, Congress did the bare minimum of governing by (1) avoiding a default on the national
debt and (2) approving temporary funding patches to avoid a government shutdown. The Senate
confirmed 66 federal judges and, finally last week, about 400 military nominations. The House
ousted a Speaker, elected a new one, and kicked out a member.

Frankly, that’s about it in terms of major action. (A full list of the 22 bills enacted into law in
2023 can be found at

Big Issues in Play for the Final Week of the Year (and beyond)…

With five scheduled voting days remaining in the year, a lengthy list of legislative priorities
remain—a couple of which Congress will tackle while punting the others into the new year when
legislating only gets tougher as primary season ramps up.

NDAA – The most important of the bunch is the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act,
the final version of which was published last week. The NDAA Conference Report is a serious
piece of legislation that will likely receive strong bipartisan support before Congress hits the
exits. The final text is largely void of the “cultural warfare” provisions that some had sought to
include. That, plus a last-minute effort to temporarily extend a government surveillance
program that is controversial in some corners, could result in numerous defections on the right.
But, overall, the bill works as intended to advance Pentagon policies and priorities to meet
current global challenges, of which there are plenty. The Senate could take a final vote by
Wednesday afternoon with the House acting on Thursday or Friday.

Israel and Ukraine Security Funding – The fate of President Joe Biden’s request for more than
$100 billion in security funding—much of it to be directed to Ukrainian and Israeli war efforts –
remains unknown. Ukrainian President Zelensky is scheduled to be in Washington this week to
make an 11 th hour pitch for the funding that is critical to his country’s resistance of Russian
invaders. Republicans are demanding that significant reforms to U.S. border security laws be
attached. While there is certainly nothing wrong with leveraging one legislative priority against another, immigration policy has been a notoriously difficult area to build consensus over the last
twenty years. If that discord continues, the foreign funding may be a risk—for now, at least.

Military Nominations —Sen. Tommy Tuberville released his hold on about 400 military
nominations last week, but about a dozen of the highest-ranking promotions remain. Following
the NDAA vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer could begin forcing individual votes on the nominees just before
the Christmas break. Failure to approve the nominations before the end of the year means that
the nominations would be returned to the White House for resubmittal next year. While that
indeed starts the process over and certainly means additional time-consuming paperwork for
the nominee and the administration, it’s largely a clerical process that could be expedited.

702 – Sec. 702, a key intelligence authority that allows the U.S. government to conduct
surveillance on non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be overseas, expires at the end of the
year absent congressional action. The House is considering competing reform proposals (House
Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and House Intel Committee Chairman Mike
Turner each have a bill) this week, but conclusion of Congressional consideration by year’s end
seems unlikely. This will be an important and contentious fight. Administration leaders are
concerned about language in the Jordan proposal – Sec. 21D – that they believe would gut the
capabilities of the program that helps track terrorists, adverse state actors, and transnational
criminals. A temporary extension of the law via the NDAA would be prudent.

For more information on this intelligence program, see an article I co-authored recently in THE HILL,
“Congress Can’t Afford to Let the Feds Lose This Critical Tool.”

Federal Spending – There’s no major deadline just before Christmas this year, a rare gift for
members and staff. But the late January and early February deadlines for approving additional
federal funding will come quick in the new year and as of now, there is no framework or plan to
move the necessary appropriations bills in time. Of course, that situation could improve, but you
will be hard pressed to make an argument that the political dynamic will be materially different
in a month. Failure to pass spending legislation will shutter the government and, as the deadline
draws near, some will turn to the “yearlong” Continuing Resolution (CR) option to void that
outcome while also effectively canceling out Congressional input on the FY24 appropriations

The Farm Bill – The massive agricultural policy bill has already been extended until late next

FAA Reauthorization – The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization is already
overdue, and the current temporary patch expires at the end of the month. Look for Congress to
pass another extension quietly before leaving town, kicking the can even further down the road.

Abroad – The end of the First Session of the 118 th Congress comes as the international security
situation seems to be rapidly changing, and not in good ways.

Russia has dug in on Ukrainian territory, and a long and deadly stalemate over the winter seems inevitable. Israel’s war rages on. A humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens. U.S. forces have come under attack in Iraq and Syria. A U.S. naval ship was fired upon in the Red Sea. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq was attacked. And the
FBI Director testified last week that he sees “blinking lights everywhere I turn,” a reference to
signs of looming terrorist attack.

To be clear, one shouldn’t conflate the lack of major Congressional accomplishments
described above with the everyday work of most members and congressional staff in
Washington and around the country. Their behind-the-scenes efforts to advocate for their states
and districts, help constituents solve problems, and advance smaller legislative priorities doesn’t
often show up on the congressional scoreboard, but it’s critically important. Thanks for your
service to our country.

On a personal note, thanks for reading THE MONDAY BRIEF this year. I hope you and
loved ones have a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

# # #

Stephen E. Boyd is a Partner at Horizons Global Solutions. Previously, he served as a Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Chief of Staff for Alabama members in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and as a Communications Director of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Opinions expressed herein are his own. Contact Stephen at [email protected] or via X at @SEBOYD79 or via LinkedIn

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