Congressional Leaders Unveil Bill to Avert Government Shutdown

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
March 3, 2024Congress
Lawmakers have until March 8 to pass the first six bills to avoid a partial government shutdown.

U.S. congressional leaders on Sunday unveiled a bill that would fund parts of the government for parts of the fiscal year as lawmakers faced a threat of a partial government shutdown later this week.

Both House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) appeared to claim victory for their respective parties on Sunday, releasing statements to say they were able to come to an agreement to fund the government.

“Republicans have worked hard to successfully move the policy and spending priorities of the federal government away from the previous Pelosi-Schumer [fiscal year 2023] appropriations,” wrote Mr. Johnson, “and American taxpayers will benefit from it.”

The speaker said GOP lawmakers were able to push back on “left-wing proposals” and impose sharp cuts to the Biden administration’s agenda, including preventing “Department of Justice from targeting parents exercising their right to free speech before school boards” and “deep cuts” to the Environmental Protection Agency, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The bill includes a 10 percent cut in funding to the EPA, 7 percent to the ATF, and 6 percent to the FBI.

As for Mr. Schumer, he released a statement on Sunday afternoon saying that Congress came to a “bipartisan agreement” on six government spending bills that will “keep the government open,” potentially averting Friday’s shutdown. “We are proud to be keeping the government open without cuts or poison [pills].”

He added in separate statement that the first spending package would keep up “aggressive investments Democrats secured for American families, American workers, and America’s national defense.” The Democratic leader meanwhile emphasized that the bill fully funds a health program for low-income families, “makes critical investments in our infrastructure, and strengthens programs that benefit services for our veterans.”

But Mr. Schumer stressed the “clock is now ticking until government funding runs out this Friday,” saying the House needs to pass the measures and send them to the Senate before the deadline.

Specifically, the bill sets a discretionary spending level of $1.66 trillion for fiscal year 2024, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer’s office told news outlets on Sunday. It fills in the details of an agreement that Mr. Schumer and Mr. Johnson set in early January.

Lawmakers last week passed the fourth stopgap measure since Oct. 1 to keep the government funded, and set themselves two quick deadlines to act, with funding for a part of the government including the Department of Transportation and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) running out on March 8 and most other federal agencies partially shutting down on March 22.

The 1,050-page bill lays out in detail funding for six of the dozen segments of the government that Congress is charged with allocating money for, with the next six due later in the month.

A report from The Washington Post says the package totals $704 billion, coming after months of negotiations and votes on stopgap funding, including one late last week. The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Schumer’s office for comment Sunday.

Other Republicans and Democrats in Congress welcomed the proposal after the announcements from Mr. Schumer and Mr. Johnson.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat in the House Appropriations Committee, said Sunday that she was “grateful” that the measures protect “the great strides we made over the last two years to reverse the underinvestment in domestic programs that Americans depend on,” urging for the quick passage of the package, according to a statement.

Also Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the top Republican in the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that Congress members “have worked very hard to reach agreements on the bill text unveiled today,” adding that it should be passed without “any further delay.”

While the top leaders of Congress have agreed on the deal, it still faces some challenges, notably opposition by the more conservative Republicans in the House, who have repeatedly called for sharp spending cuts and typically do not vote for spending bills.

The ongoing standoff and the nation’s $34 trillion debt has unnerved credit agencies. Moody’s downgraded its financial outlook on the United States from “stable” to “negative” in November 2023, citing large fiscal deficits and increasing political polarization, though Fitch on Friday affirmed a “stable” outlook.

The House will have to vote on the bill first before the Senate can take up the package before Friday, Mr. Schumer has said. The House is due to return to Washington on Tuesday. After that, both congressional chambers still face a March 22 deadline to fund the remainder of the government.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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