Long-Delayed $1.2 Trillion Spending Package Zooms to the Finish Line

Long-Delayed $1.2 Trillion Spending Package Zooms to the Finish Line

REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Nearly six months into the fiscal year, and less than 48 hours before a government shutdown deadline, congressional leaders on Thursday released their final package of 2024 annual spending bills. The 1,012-page, $1.2 trillion "minibus" was made public just before 3 a.m., kicking off the final leg of a months-long marathon to resolve policy disputes, fund the government and keep agencies operating through September.

The House is expected to vote on the package tomorrow, bypassing a rule giving lawmakers at least 72 hours to review legislation before it is brought to a vote. The Senate would then follow, though the package could face some delays in that chamber and it’s still not clear whether Congress will be able to pass the bills in time to beat a Friday midnight deadline.

The new package includes about 70% of discretionary federal funding for the year, including the appropriations bills for Defense; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; the Legislative Branch; State and Foreign Operations; and Financial Services and General Government.

Defense spending would climb more than 3% while non-defense spending would stay roughly flat. The defense increase includes a 5.2% pay raise for U.S. servicemembers, the largest in decades.

Democrats and Republicans each sought to highlight what they saw as wins.

Democrats said they had delivered a $1 billion increase for child care and Head Start pre-school programs while fending off GOP demands for steep spending cuts and dozens of conservative policy riders, including some targeting abortion rights and diversity efforts. Democrats also celebrated adding 12,000 new Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan refugees.

"We defeated outlandish cuts that would have been a gut punch for American families and our economy—and we fought off scores of extreme policies that would have restricted Americans’ fundamental freedoms, hurt consumers while giving giant corporations an unfair advantage, and turned back the clock on historic climate action," Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Republicans, meanwhile, touted a $27 billion increase in defense spending and a partial reversal of additional funding for the IRS while emphasizing that they had delivered first overall cut to non-defense, non-veteran spending in almost a decade. They said they had sharply curtailed the use of budgetary gimmicks and managed to set spending levels more than $100 billion lower than President Joe Biden had requested.

GOP leaders also highlighted funding for 22,000 Border Patrol agents and about 8,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds. And they pointed to a 6% cut to the State Department and foreign operations as well as a prohibition on taxpayer funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) through March 2025. That agency provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza but faces accusations that at least 12 of its employees participated in the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel and that many of its workers have ties to Hamas. The package also bars U.S. embassies from displaying unofficial flags, including LGBTQ pride flags, and prohibits any effort to ban gas stoves, both of which have been hot-button issues for some on the right.

"House Republicans made a commitment to strategically increase defense spending, make targeted cuts to overfunded non-defense programs, and pull back wasteful spending from previous years," said Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "I am proud to say that we have delivered on that promise, and this bill is proof."

But hardline Republicans were incensed by the $1.2 billion package, with some blasting Speaker Mike Johnson for agreeing to it instead of trying to win more negotiating leverage by adopting a longer funding patch or allowing a government shutdown. "I like Mike as a person. He’s honest. I just don’t know if it’s in his DNA to fight," South Carolina Republican Rep. Ralph Norman said, per Politico. "This is just sad."

Conservative Rep. Chip Roy of Texas called the bill an abomination. "It’s total lack of backbone, total lack of leadership, and a total failure by Republican leadership, there’s no other way to describe it," he said in an appearance on Steve Bannon’s "War Room" podcast. He added: "I will not be going out and supporting any Republican who votes for this bill, for any position ever again. It’s absolutely unsupportable by anybody who is a self-proclaimed conservative."

The bottom line: This spending package is now speeding toward passage, though it’s still possible the government might see a brief funding lapse, depending on how quickly the Senate moves and whether any one senator chooses to delay a final vote. Once this funding fight is done, lawmakers will turn to the 2025 spending and tax plans.