Still No Deal to Avert Government Shutdown as Deadline Approaches

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
March 18, 2024Congress
Lawmakers on Monday negotiated to avoid a government shutdown. The main obstacle is agreeing on funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Democrats submitted a last-minute request for salary increases for Transportation Security Administration agents, while Republicans insist on more funding for detention centers for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The United States could be headed for a government shutdown if Congress fails to strike a deal this week on the remaining fiscal year 2024 spending bills that members have yet to pass.

In a race against time, Congress passed a package of six appropriations bills earlier this month, narrowly avoiding a partial shutdown. The deadline to pass the remaining six bills is Friday, March 22.

The text of a minibus combining those bills was widely expected to be released by March 17, although no such deal emerged.

House rules require that members be given at least 72 hours to review legislation before it comes up for a vote. If a deal is not released on March 18, that could mean another last-minute scramble to get something on President Joe Biden’s desk.

The delay comes amid fierce Republican opposition to the president’s handling of the crisis at the southern border, which more than 7 million illegal immigrants have crossed since he took office.

Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are included among the mix of remaining spending bills. Those negotiations reportedly derailed over the weekend amid talks of a potential year-long continuing resolution.

“Republicans want to underfund DHS, which makes the border less secure and the country less safe,” a White House official told Politico on March 17, asserting that Republicans were trying to “sow chaos on the border ahead of November.”

But Republicans purportedly pushed back on those claims, holding that the issue was not the amount of funds requested but how they would be used.

Nonetheless, talks were said to be back on track on March 18. Commenting on the negotiations at a press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration’s position was that the DHS needs more funding to adequately address the border crisis.

“Negotiations continue, and we are focused, certainly, on reaching an agreement,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “As you know, the shutdown is set for this coming Friday, and we want to get to a place where … DHS has what it needs to continue the operational pace that they’ve been having.”

Any deal that is reached is likely to face pushback from the GOP’s right flank, which continues to push for stronger border reforms.

“Congress: we are FUNDING a DHS that is MASS RELEASING illegal aliens into our communities, some of whom commit horrific crimes,” wrote Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, in an X post.

“Republicans MUST NOT vote to keep funding Mayorkas’ DHS at the same level with zero policy changes next week. We have the power to stop this.”

Thanks to the GOP’s razor-thin majority in the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) was forced to ally with Democrats to pass the first appropriations minibus on March 6. A similar partnership may well be in the cards for the second.

Other remaining bills include funding for the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and State, as well as the legislative branch, financial services, and general government.

From The Epoch Times

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