Congress Passes Spending Bill in Wee Hours to Fend Off Shutdown

Congress Passes Spending Bill in Wee Hours to Fend Off Shutdown

The Senate overwhelmingly gave final approval early Saturday to a $1.2 trillion spending bill that would fund more than half of the government. This effectively averted a shutdown by sending the bill to President Biden’s desk just hours after the midnight deadline.

The 74-24 vote, which ended around 2 a.m., capped an extraordinary day on Capitol Hill that began with a major bipartisan vote to rush the measure through the House, sparking a conservative revolt and one Republican to boot prompted him to threaten to offer to oust Speaker Mike Johnson from his post.

The Senate’s decision came more than 12 hours after the House vote, following intense haggling to organize a series of politically charged votes on proposed legislative changes that Republicans had demanded and that threatened to put the government into a short period by the weekend to drive to a partial standstill.

The White House said in a statement minutes after the midnight deadline that federal officials had “ceased preparations for the shutdown” in anticipation of Mr. Biden signing the law later on Saturday. But the delay highlighted the difficulties that had plagued spending negotiations from the start and was a fitting end to a series of agonizing negotiations that are on the way to finally funding the government until the end of the budget year, September 30, six months behind schedule.

“It’s been a long day, a long week and a very long few months,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader. “But tonight we funded the government with significant investments for parents and children, as well as for small businesses and health workers, military families and much more. It is no small thing to launch such a package in a divided government.”

Earlier Friday, Democrats rallied to provide the support needed to counter a steep surge in a 286-134 vote in the House that came to a head as leaders struggled for the two-thirds majority needed for passage to overcome opposition from conservative Republicans.

Angered by the bipartisan spending deal to keep federal funds flowing to the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, the far right bristled, and as the vote continued, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia began calling for a vote to remove Mr. Johnson .

Ms. Greene told reporters on the House steps a minute after the vote that she would not seek an immediate vote on his removal but had initiated the process as a “warning” because his actions constituted a “treason.”

“That was our leverage,” Ms. Greene said of the spending legislation. “This is our chance to secure the border and he didn’t do it. And now this funding bill has been passed without a majority.”

The 1,012-page legislative package, which lumped together six spending bills, enjoyed a boost in the House after ultraconservatives rebelled against the measure. They delivered a series of outraged speeches from the audience accusing Mr. Johnson of negotiating legislation that amounted to, as Ms. Greene put it, a “cruel attack on the American people.”

No other Republicans have publicly supported Mr. Johnson’s removal, and Democrats have signaled in recent weeks that they might be inclined to protect him if he faces a threat to his job from Republicans.

However, passage of the bill came at a heavy political cost to the Speaker, who was forced to violate an unwritten but sacrosanct rule of House Republicans that Ms. Greene alluded to, namely against introducing legislation not approved by can be supported by the majority of its members. Only 101 Republicans, less than half, supported it.

That left Democrats to provide the majority of votes to pass the bill.

“Once again, it will be House Democrats who will get the legislation needed for the American people to the finish line,” Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York told reporters at the Capitol before the vote.

Republicans pushed to include a number of provisions in the spending package, including funding for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds and a provision cutting aid to the main U.N. agency that provides aid to the Palestinians . Additionally, funding for technology at the southern border will be increased by about 25 percent, while funding for the State Department and foreign aid programs will be cut by about 6 percent.

“House Republicans achieved conservative policy victories, rejected extreme Democratic proposals and implemented significant cuts, while significantly strengthening national defense,” Johnson said in a statement after the vote. “The trial was also an important step in breaking omnibus muscle memory and represents the best possible outcome in a divided government.”

Still, conservatives said the legislation wasn’t conservative enough, citing the $1.2 trillion price tag. They were particularly incensed to see $200 million in new funding requested for the new FBI headquarters in Maryland, as well as earmarks from senators for LGBTQ centers.

“We got rid of all of our poison riders, and Schumer was unwilling to remove their poison earmarks,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt, Republican of Alabama, referring to Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. Mr. Aderholt, the chairman of the budget subcommittee that oversees labor and health programs, opposed the bill.

Before Friday morning’s vote, Rep. Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, raged that the bill was “full of crap” and called on Mr. Johnson to be more combative in negotiations with Democrats.

“Damn, fight!” said Mr. Biggs. “That’s surrender, that’s surrender.”

Democrats secured a total of $1 billion in new funding for federal child care and education programs, as well as a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research.

“This legislation does not contain everything that either side would have wanted,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “But I am pleased that many of the extreme cuts and measures proposed by House Republicans have been rejected.”

Minutes later, Mr. Biggs stood on the House floor and ruefully agreed with Ms. DeLauro’s assessment.

“And yet somehow the Republicans are going to vote for it?” he said. “That’s rude. But she’s right: she got the expenses. She killed the riders.”

Robert Jimison contributed reporting.

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2024-03-23 06:11:37