Congress Leaders Unveil $1.2 Trillion Funding Deal 1 Day Before Shutdown Deadline

Congressional leaders unveiled a $1.2 trillion spending package to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2024. Republican leaders touted the bills as containing the first cuts in non-defense and non-VA spending in almost a decade.

Following a last-minute controversy around funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), congressional leaders in the early hours of March 21 unveiled a massive package to fund large portions of the government ahead of a March 22 deadline to fund the government.

The package, which funds half of the 12 yearly government spending bills, starts a mad dash by Congress to approve more than $1 trillion in spending. The bills cover funding for the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Labor, and other departments.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement that the funding bills are a “serious commitment to strengthening our national defense by moving the Pentagon toward a focus on its core mission while expanding support for our brave men and women who serve in uniform.”

Earlier this month, Congress passed a minibus—or small omnibus—of six appropriations bills, providing funding for roughly 30 percent of the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year. That package was passed against another shutdown deadline.

Now legislators have less than two days to pass the package and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The House is set to vote on the package on March 22, but Senate procedure might cause the consideration process to linger into the weekend, causing a temporary shutdown. In the upper chamber, any one senator has the power to delay voting on a bill.

Mr. Johnson highlighted that the package blocks funding through March 2025 to the United Nations agency that provides relief for Palestinians. The body has been heavily criticized after it was revealed that a dozen employees were involved in Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023, attack against Israel.

The package provides $824.3 billion to the Department of Defense, a 3 percent increase from last fiscal year. This includes a 5.2 percent pay increase for service members formalized in the National Defense Authorization Act passed last year.

It also provides $19.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection, which includes funding for 22,000 Border Patrol agents.

The DHS will receive $90 billion in discretionary funding under the package. This would fund 41,500 detention beds, higher than President Biden’s budget request, according to a GOP summary.

An additional 12,000 special immigrant visas for Afghans who helped the United States will also be provided under the package.

The budget also partially defunds efforts to expand the IRS workforce by 85,000 agents, which Republicans argue are targeted at everyday Americans.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted a $1 billion increase for Head Start programs and new child care centers for military families. And Democrats highlighted a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research and a $100 million increase for Alzheimer’s research.

“We defeated outlandish cuts that would have been a gut punch for American families and our economy,” Ms. Murray said.

She also said Democrats successfully fought off scores of policy measures that House Republicans were seeking to add.

“From Day 1 of this process, I said there would be no extreme, far-right riders to restrict women’s reproductive freedoms—and there aren’t, she said.

The House’s top Democrat appropriator Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) noted what her party sees as the “strongest investments and victories for the American people” in the package, including the allocation of $1 billion in increased funding for child care and Head Start programs, a $120 million increase for funding of cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, and a $100 million increase in funding for Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia research.

The Democrats on the committee also lauded a rejection of Republican cuts that would have ended funding for 224,000 teachers’ jobs and the blocking of 10 Republican riders described as limiting women’s reproductive health.

The Associated Press and Samantha Flom contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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