Government Shutdown Deadline Looms as House Passes $1.2...

Government Shutdown Deadline Looms as House Passes $1.2 Trillion Spending Package; Senate Next in Line

Introduction: Government Shutdown Deadline

A few hours before the government shutdown deadline, the House approved a $1.2 trillion spending package on Friday, ending nearly six months of a prolonged budgetary standoff. The bill passed 286-134 and now heads to the Senate, where final passage is hoped for after Friday. Over 70% of the funds will go towards defense. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., presented the bill under a smooth process requiring a two-thirds majority for approval.

Lawmakers could still face a midnight deadline to avert a shutdown as action in the Senate could take time. However, the practical impact would be minimal in the near term. Most federal employees are off duty by the end of the week, and many essential services are funded through previous legislation until Monday without disruption.

House Republicans Budget Strategy

Johnson divided the spending bill into two parts as House Republicans have grown accustomed to annual brinkmanship over voting for a large, omnibus bill, which requires scrutiny and negotiation. He viewed it as a forward-looking move. Nonetheless, Friday saw more opposition from House Republicans, who viewed the bill as allocating too little or too much spending according to their policy preferences, just before the government shutdown deadline. “The most important thing is that this is about putting a complete and utterly weaponized government,” said Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., who described himself as “not hell-bent” on the bill. 

Critics, particularly fellow Republicans, raised issues of voting in favor of the bill and raised concerns over the actions of House GOP leadership. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., even said, “It’s clear Democrats own the speaker’s gavel.” “We told people we were going to build a small government, and we told people we were going to secure the border,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, expressing disappointment as the government shutdown deadline loomed. “This is a sad day.”

Progressive Influence on Budget

Lawmakers have taken six months into the current fiscal year to approach the finish line, a process slowed by initiatives from progressives who pushed for more policy mandates and reductions in spending in contrast to Senate or White House counterparts. A stopgap spending bill was needed briefly to provide funding to agencies. “It’s outrageous that the group that made the deal most difficult during last year’s negotiations is now holding up negotiations,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., during a debate on the bill, just as the government shutdown deadline loomed. 

“Legislation is about compromise.” The first package of spending bills for the entire year, which provided funding for agencies including Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, was just hours away from the deadline for funding expiration for these agencies two weeks ago. Now, lawmakers are considering another package under similar circumstances, mindful of the looming government shutdown deadline.

Scope of Funding Allocation

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.
Scope of Funding Allocation

The 1,012-page bill also funds Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Labor, and others. Non-defense spending will largely flatline compared to last year, although some, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are feeling the pinch, and many agencies still need to see their budgets sustained with inflation. When both packages are combined, discretionary spending for the budget year will total nearly $1.66 trillion. This does not include programs like Social Security and Medicare, or financial assistance for the country’s burgeoning debt.

With the looming government shutdown deadline, the need for swift action on funding becomes even more critical. House Republicans have secured a provision that ties funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency until March 2025, a crucial agency that provides food, water, and shelter to civilians in Gaza.

Following allegations that dozens of agency employees were involved in the attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7th, Israel is insisting on halting funding for the agency. However, some lawmakers are concerned about this restriction as many humanitarian agencies argue that efforts to send aid to Gaza, where one-fourth of the 2.3 million inhabitants are suffering from hunger, cannot be compromised, especially with the looming government shutdown deadline.

Democratic Strategy Amid Deadline

Representative Rosa DeLauro, the lead Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, noted that while there are some concerns among Democratic members about this provision, Democrats are capable of securing more humanitarian aid overall, especially with the government shutdown deadline looming. This would amount to an increase of nearly $336 million from last year’s levels.

To garner Republican support, Johnson has mentioned some additional expenditures for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for about 8,000 more detention beds for apprehended immigrants awaiting deportation. This marks an increase of around 24% from current levels. Additionally, GOP leadership has earmarked additional funds for nearly 2,000 Border Patrol agents.

Meanwhile, Democrats are proud of a $1 billion increase for new centers for child care for military families and start programs with $120 million for cancer research and $100 million for Alzheimer’s research. “As the deadline for a government shutdown draws near, Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania stressed the importance of recent achievements, stating, ‘We’ve tackled threats from non-state actors that put American families and our economy at risk.’ His remarks underscore the pressing need for ongoing negotiations and actions.”

Fiscal Agreement Framework Overview

The expenditures in the bill track with a deal that the current Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., worked on with the White House in May 2023, which limited spending for two years and suspended the debt limit until January 2025 to allow the federal government to continue paying its bills. Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, informed lawmakers on Thursday that last year’s deal, which became the Taxpayer Accountability Act, will save the federal government nearly $1 trillion over the coming decade.

Members from both political parties voiced their frustration over the prolonged duration of the process and expressed concerns that the eventual outcome might align closely with earlier predictions. They fully warned Republicans would not secure the policy mandates they were seeking or reduce spending more than McCarthy and the White House agreed to last year. Representative Dan Bacon from Nebraska remarked, “People had unrealistic expectations, imagining we’d deviate from what McCarthy had agreed upon with the president,” amidst escalating discussions leading up to the imminent government shutdown deadline.

Conclusion

In a crucial move just before the government shutdown deadline, the House has greenlit a $1.2 trillion spending package. This approval comes as a pivotal step toward ensuring essential funding for various federal agencies. With the Senate now in focus, the baton passes to the next stage of legislative scrutiny. This timely action underscores the importance of averting any potential disruption in government operations. As the clock ticks closer to the shutdown deadline, all eyes are now on the Senate’s deliberations to maintain continuity in crucial federal funding.

FAQs

  1. What is the significance of the House approving the $1.2 trillion spending package?

Ans:    It prevents a government shutdown by providing crucial funding before the deadline.

  1. Why is the Senate mentioned as being “up next”?

Ans:    The Senate needs to review and vote on the spending package to finalize the funding before the government shutdown deadline.

  1. What happens if the Senate doesn’t approve the spending bills in time?

Ans:    Failure to pass the bills before the government shutdown deadline could lead to a halt in federal operations and services.

  1. Why is there urgency surrounding the approval of these spending bills?

Ans:    The urgency stems from the looming government shutdown deadline, requiring timely action to ensure continuous funding for federal agencies and programs.

  1. What are the key areas covered by the $1.2 trillion spending package?

Ans:    The package covers various sectors, including defense, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, addressing essential needs across the nation before the government shutdown deadline.

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