Spending Bills Likely to Be Unveiled ‘This Afternoon,’ Speaker Johnson Says

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
March 20, 2024Congress
Spending Bills Likely to Be Unveiled ‘This Afternoon,’ Speaker Johnson Says
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) (C) speaks during a news conference with Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on March 20, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Congress has less than three days to pass six spending bills or face a partial government shutdown.

While a deal has reportedly been struck—one President Joe Biden has endorsed—its progress has hit a small snag: it’s not on paper.

But that problem, according to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), should be resolved shortly.

“We’ve been very, very consistent, very adamant that we’ve got to get our government funded, and I’m delighted to tell you we’re coming to the end of that. We should have the text, hopefully, by this afternoon and begin to finish up that process,” Mr. Johnson advised at a March 20 press conference.

The deal, he noted, was briefly held up by “some very tough negotiation” over funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is in charge of securing the U.S.–Mexico border.

“That last piece, the Homeland piece, was the most difficult to negotiate because the two parties have a wide chasm between them, as you know,” the speaker said. “But I think the final product is something that we were able to achieve a lot of key provisions in and wins and a move in the direction that we want, even with our tiny, historically small majority.”

But those views are not shared by the chamber’s entire Republican conference. Over the past few days, members of the House Freedom Caucus have urged their colleagues not to support the emerging deal, asserting that it would fund the Biden administration’s “disastrous” border policies.

Meanwhile, others have denounced the deal for its continuation of the unpopular practice of bundling individual spending bills into behemoth, impossible-to-read packages while up against a deadline.

“We are back in Ryan-Boehner swamp mode where the omnibus is written behind closed doors,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) wrote on X. “Members are told to take it or leave it, and although Republicans control the House, more Democrats vote for it than Republicans because it spends more money than when Pelosi was in charge.”

Funding Saga

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.

In addition to DHS, the remaining bills include appropriations for the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and State, as well as the legislative branch, financial services, and general government.

Congress has until 11:59 p.m. on March 22 to pass the package and avert a shutdown. House rules require that members have at least 72 hours to review legislation before voting on it. That said, Mr. Johnson could suspend the rules and bring the minibus to the floor sooner.

There is also another option. Congress could pass another continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government at current levels while members review the bill.

But neither of those paths is likely to sit well with the right flank of the Republican conference, which snatched the gavel from former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) under similar circumstances.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, was among those who voted to unseat Mr. McCarthy. In a statement, Mr. Good made his disapproval of the current situation clear.

“If you’re a Republican planning to vote for this omnibus spending package, you ought to insist on AT LEAST 72 hours to read it because you will own every dollar of increased spending, every disastrous Biden policy this funds, and crazy wasteful earmark,” he said.

From The Epoch Times

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