By Kate Ackley
December 20, 2023
Senate departs for the year after clearing officers, FAA
Congress returns in 2024 to early spending deadlines
Lobbyists already gave up on 2023. They’re onward to 2024, preparing Hill campaigns for a tumultuous election year.
With good reason: The Senate is winding down with a nominations spree this week, and the House, well… we hardly knew you.
Congress will return in January to a government funding crisis as well as debates over foreign aid and border control. The elections will cast a long shadow of uncertainty over every policy debate and lobbying effort, and the first half of the year will prove pivotal for influence campaigns. A lot is riding on just the first month.
“We should think of January 2024 now what our normal December would feel like,” said Carolyn Coda, who co-chairs the economic policy practice at the firm Invariant.
From the funding battles to debates over the annual defense authorization, here are the lobbying fights we have our eyes on for 2024.
Keeping the government open: The fight to fund the government after stopgap measures expire in January and February will dominate K Street lobbyists’ work early in the new year.
“Everybody is a big stakeholder in this,” said Steve Elmendorf, a founder of the firm Team Subject Matter. “They view these bills as the vehicles by which other things get done.”
Tax writers offered hope that expired tax credits, such as those for research and development much beloved by the business community, could see renewal in government funding legislation as soon as January. That would represent the “opening salvo for a good number of my clients on the tax front,” said Mark Williams, a principal at lobbying firm Ferox Strategies whose clients include the Coalition to End Double Taxation of Consumer Claims.
Expect appropriations fights, including over controversial policy riders, to suck up a tremendous amount of lobbyists’ time.
Israel aid: Longtime lobbying force American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other pro-Israel groups will continue pressing lawmakers to move quickly in the new year on an aid package to fund the country’s war against Hamas. There is broad bipartisan support for that, but much more is at stake for AIPAC, which some progressive Democrats openly criticize. Pro-Palestinian groups have mounted pressure campaigns of their own, including this week inside the Capitol. The issue is likely to reverberate in next year’s elections.
Israel aid is AIPAC’s “top priority to help ensure that Hamas is never again able to perpetrate another horrific terrorist attack on the Jewish state,” AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann said in an email. It’s been tied up in partisan disputes over aid for Ukraine and the border policies; negotiations will continue on all of that next year.
Privacy and surveillance: The tech industry will have its fingerprints on many big items on the 2024 agenda, including debate over Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, regulating social media for children, and AI. The fight over Section 702, which lawmakers temporarily renewed, seems poised to pit tech and privacy groups that want to limit the government’s surveillance powers against law enforcement and the defense and national security sectors.
Lobbying efforts to move cryptocurrency legislation may help buoy retiring Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) in what might be his swan song. Digital currency companies want a more “structured regulatory framework,” said Coda, whose clients include Payward, which does business as cryptocurrency exchange Kraken.
Annual defense bill: Looking to the latter part of 2024, lobbyists, including those far afield from the defense sector, plan to make plays on the annual defense authorization measure because it’s viewed as must-pass in a Congress where moving legislation will be highly prized.
Ari Zimmerman, a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt and a former Armed Services Committee staffer, said he expects the bill “will be used to push through extraneous provisions” including those related to China as well as hot-button social issues on diversity and abortion, especially given the election year dynamics.
“I think it will only get amplified because it’s an election year,” Williams said of debates over controversial fights on NDAA and appropriations riders.
A short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorities is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk — averting the threat of an end-of-year lapse and kicking the contentious negotiations over a long-term extension into next year, Lillianna Byington reports.
The Senate approved the promotions of 11 four-star military officers, including key positions in the Middle East and intelligence community, that were still being held by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) in protest over the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, Roxana Tiron and Zach C. Cohen report.