Congressional Leaders Strike Funding Deal Setting New Shutdown Deadlines

Congressional Leaders Strike Funding Deal Setting New Shutdown Deadlines


Congressional leaders struck a deal Wednesday on half of the 12 required annual spending bills along with a stopgap measure to avoid a partial government shutdown that was set to begin Friday night.

“We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government,” the four top congressional leaders and four top appropriators said in a joint statement announcing the deal, which was initially floated by House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The agreement will extend the current funding deadlines of March 1 and March 8 by one week and two weeks, respectively, buying time for appropriators to finish work next week on a package of six spending bills: Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD.

“After preparing final text, this package of six full year Appropriations bills will be voted on and enacted prior to March 8,” the lawmakers said in their statement. “These bills will adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility Act discretionary spending limits and January’s topline spending agreement.”

Leaders reportedly hope to have legislative text for the first batch of spending bills ready for lawmakers to review by this weekend. Once that package is done, the remaining six appropriations bills will be finalized and enacted by March 22. Those bills cover Defense, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations.

The House will reportedly vote on the stopgap funding bill on Thursday, with the Senate to follow before Friday’s midnight deadline. “Johnson will almost certainly need help from Democrats to pass the measure in the House,” Politico points out, “and all 100 senators will have to agree to speed up debate to move the stopgap through the upper chamber before the March 1 deadline.”

Why it matters: None of the congressional leaders wanted to shoulder the blame for a government shutdown months before the 2024 elections, and this deal will allow them to avoid that possibility, for now. It will also remove any uncertainty about whether President Joe Biden will be able to deliver his State of the Union address as scheduled on March 7.

But, as Catie Edmondson of The New York Times writes, passing another stopgap spending bill will “only prolong what has been an agonizing monthslong negotiation on federal spending that has gripped Congress for months, as Republicans bent on steep cuts and conservative policy mandates refused to accept a deal with Democrats.

Lawmakers will still have to work out potentially significant differences over the next six, more contentious spending bills within a few weeks — or face another shutdown threat. “That would be a tall order in the House, which has struggled to pass any spending legislation amid Republican divisions,” Edmondson notes.

If or when lawmakers can finalize all the required 2024 annual spending bills, they’ll quickly have to move on to the 2025 budget battles. The president is due to release his fiscal 2025 budget request on March 11.


Quote of the Day

“Look, there’s no reason this shit couldn’t have been done by the end of September.”

 ‒ Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who oversees the defense spending bill, as quoted by Politico talking about the budget and appropriations process for the current fiscal year, which started some five months ago.