Congress unveils $1.2 trillion plan to avert federal shutdown

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Congress unveils $1.2 trillion plan to avert federal shutdown


March 21, 2024

Lawmakers introduced a $1.2

trillion-dollar spending package Thursday that paves the way for avoiding a partial government shutdown for several key federal agencies this weekend and allows Congress, nearly six months into the budget year, to finish its work funding the government through September rounds.

Democrats were largely able to roll back hundreds of policy mandates and some of the sharper cuts that House Republicans tried to impose on non-defense programs, although House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La. ), highlighted some policy victories, including a nearly 24% win. increase in the number of detention beds for migrants awaiting immigration proceedings or removal from the country.

The expenditure accounts for these years were divided into two packages. The first was approved by Congress two weeks ago, just hours before the shutdown deadline for the agencies funded through the bills.

Now Congress is focusing on the second, larger package, which includes about $886 billion for the Defense Department, an increase of about 3% over last year’s level. The 1,012-page bill also funds the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Labor and others.

Congress passes a law to prevent a government shutdown

Non-defense spending will remain relatively flat compared to the previous year, although some, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, will take a hit, and many agencies will not see their budgets keep up with inflation.

When the two packages are combined, discretionary spending for the budget year will amount to about $1.66 trillion. That doesn’t include programs like Social Security and Medicare and financing the country’s rising debt burden.

The expectation is that the House will first adopt the measure on Friday. It would then go to the Senate, where senators would have to agree on its speedy consideration to avoid a partial shutdown. Typically, such agreements include votes on proposed amendments to the bill.

Johnson promoted the bill as a serious commitment to strengthening national defense by moving the Pentagon to focus on its core mission while expanding support for those serving in the military. The bill provides for a 5.2% pay increase for service workers.

Among the changes Johnson cited for Republicans was the ban on funding through March 2025 for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the main provider of food, water and shelter to civilians in Gaza.

House approves $460 billion spending package. The Senate is expected to act before the closing deadline

Republicans are calling for a freeze on funding for the agency after Israel alleged that a dozen agency employees were involved in the October 1 attack Hamas carried out in Israel. 7.

But the ban has some lawmakers concerned because many aid groups say there is no way to replace their ability to deliver the humanitarian aid that the United States and others are trying to send to Gaza, where a quarter of the 2.3 million residents are dying.

However, Democrats also emphasize that humanitarian aid will increase overall.

Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also highlighted a $1 billion increase for Head Start programs and new child care centers for military families. And Democrats touted a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research and a $100 million increase for Alzheimer’s disease research.

We defeated bizarre cuts that would have been a blow to American families and our economy,” said Murray (D-Wash.).

She also said Democrats have successfully fought many policies, known as “riders,” that Republicans tried to add in the House of Representatives.

From Day 1 of this process, I have said there would be no far-right riders restricting women’s reproductive freedoms, and there are none,” she said.

Biden signs a package of spending bills passed by Congress just hours before the shutdown deadline

One of the few policy provisions Republicans in the House of Representatives did secure was a requirement that only allows the American flag and other official flags to fly over U.S. diplomatic facilities. Under the Biden administration, U.S. embassies have been invited to raise the pride flag or rainbow colors in support of the LGBTQ community.

There is also a provision that prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves. But the White House has said president


Biden would not support a ban, and the commission, an independent agency, says such a ban was not in the works.

The spending in the bill largely mirrors an agreement that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck with the White House in May 2023, which capped spending for two years and suspended the debt ceiling until January 2025 so the federal government could pay its bills keep paying.

McCarthy (R-




was removed from the speakership a few months after the debt ceiling agreement was reached. Eight Republicans ultimately joined Democrats to oust McCarthy as chairman. And some of those unhappy with the debt ceiling also expressed doubts about the latest package.

Congressional leaders announce a spending deal critical to averting a shutdown

I hope there will be some modest victories. Unfortunately, I do not expect that we will have much success on the policy front, based on the past and based on our unwillingness to


use any kind of power to force policy victories, which means being willing to walk away and say no, said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.).

The work on the spending bills was more bipartisan in the Senate. Murray issued a joint statement with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) following the bill’s release, praising the package of bills and encouraging colleagues to vote for it.

There is no need for a shutdown or chaos and members of Congress should waste no time in passing these six bills, which will greatly benefit every state in America and reflect the important priorities of many senators, Murray and Collins said.

Johnson said that after the spending package is passed, the House will next turn its attention to a bill targeting aid to Ukraine and Israel, although lawmakers will not be in Washington for the next two weeks. The Senate has already approved a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but Johnson has refused to put it to a vote.

Kevin Freking writes for the Associated Press.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles