Thursday 7 March 2024

House Passes $460 Billion Package Of Spending Bills Ahead Of Partial Shutdown Deadline

 The GOP-led House passed a six-bill package, reportedly worth about $460 billion, on Wednesday that seeks to fund part of the federal government through the remainder of the 2024 fiscal year after lawmakers resorted to passing multiple stop-gap measures in recent months to avert a government shutdown.

By a 339-85 vote, a “minibus” of six appropriations spending bills advanced out of the House ahead of a deadline on March 8. Eighty-three Republicans were joined by two Democrats in opposing the measure that provides funds to various facets of the federal government through September. The legislation now heads to the Democrat-controlled Senate ahead of a March 8 deadline. It has the support of the Senate leadership as well as the White House.

“With the odds stacked against us, House Republicans made progress in how we fund the government. We drafted the most conservative bills in history. Members submitted over one thousand amendments. We considered house bills individually on the floor, and we avoided a massive omnibus measure,” said Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX). “​​​​In total, we increased defense funding and made targeted cuts. We also maintained legacy riders that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle wanted to remove.”

The package covers Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice, and Science; Energy and Water Development; Interior and Environment; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; and related agencies. Six other appropriations bills still need to be hashed out by congressional negotiators. They still have time, as the latest stop-gap measure provided a March 22 deadline to keep the remaining federal agencies funded.

Lawmakers passed the minibus under suspension of the rules, a mechanism that allows leadership to limit debate and prohibit floor amendments while requiring a two-thirds majority for the legislation to prevail.

With the vast majority of his caucus supporting the package on Wednesday, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) took a victory lap on social media. He said, “The House passed legislation to prevent a government shutdown. We also invest billions to protect affordable housing, combat the climate crisis and support nutrition for women, infants and children. Democrats provided a majority of the votes needed to get it done. Once again.”

Leaders from both parties in the House and Senate announced on Sunday that they had reached a bipartisan agreement for the first six appropriations bills. But the deal quickly drew the ire of some conservatives who took issue with a bevy of funding subsets for pet projects attached to the legislation and raised concerns about Congress not doing more to rein in the national debt that has swelled beyond $34 trillion.

“Budget gimmicks and earmarks are an intoxicating cocktail,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said in a post to X on Wednesday. “After 14 months sober, Congress has fallen off the wagon. By a vote of 339 to 85, the Republican led House just passed a minibus that spends tens of billions more than Pelosi’s House spent on the same things last year.”

The two Democrats who opposed the minibus — Reps. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) and Mark Takano (D-CA) — cited objections to a particular gun-related provision for veterans.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), whose party has a narrow majority in the lower chamber, said in a statement over the weekend that House Republicans managed to push federal spending priorities away from those found in the $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation for fiscal 2023 that passed under Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical” to President Joe Biden’s agenda, he said. “This legislation forbids the Department of Justice from targeting parents exercising their right to free speech before school boards, while it blocks the Biden Administration from stripping Second Amendment rights from veterans. It imposes deep cuts to the EPA, ATF, and FBI, which under the Biden Administration have threatened our freedoms and our economy, while it fully funds veterans’ health care.”

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