Congress Scrambling To Avert Shutdown

Despite the fact that the leaders of both the House and the Senate have come to an agreement on the top-line amount for the next omnibus spending bill, lawmakers in Congress are still racing to figure out how to fund the federal government before the deadline for a partial government shutdown, which comes on Friday.

It’s not a certainty that lawmakers will be able to come together and come to such an agreement, especially as House Speaker Mike Johnson must figure out a way to get some hard-line conservatives on his side.

Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus have demanded major cuts to government spending, but Johnson’s agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer fell short of their expectations in that regard.

Not long after the top-line spending deal, which totals $1.66 trillion, was announced, the House Freedom Caucus posted a message on the social media platform X that read:

“This is what surrender looks like.”

Over the weekend, a bipartisan deal meant to avert such a shutdown was announced. It’s a two-set stopgap funding bill that would provide money for the government to run through March.
Some agencies would be funded through March 1, with the remaining ones funded through March 8.

On Tuesday, the Senate advanced the bill that would pass the continuing resolution, or CR, by a 68-13 vote. The upper chamber then passed the full vote on Thursday, 77-18.

There are enough members of the House GOP who are against the top-line spending deal that coming to an agreement on the omnibus spending bill could be complicated, at best.

That being said, the House is still expected to take up and pass the CR in advance of Friday’s deadline to avert a government shutdown. Once that happens, President Joe Biden must sign the bill in order for it to take effect.

If that does happen, as expected, Congress will have about a month-and-a-half to figure out how to move forward with the major spending bill. If they don’t, they’ll need to consider another continuing resolution, though that’s certainly not ideal to keep doing over and over again.

Hard-line conservatives are often typically against CRs, as they do nothing to address overall government spending. Should this one be passed, it’ll mark the third one that’s been passed dealing with the fiscal year 2024 budget since September.

As the House Freedom Caucus pointed out on its X account:

“The @HouseGOP is planning to pass a short-term spending bill continuing [former House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi levels with Biden policies, to buy time to pass longer-term spending bills at Pelosi levels with Biden policies.”

The former chair of the group, Representative Andy Biggs from Arizona, added on his own X account:

“Enough with the continuing resolutions. … We are doing the American people a disservice.”

It’s very possible that Johnson might have to suspend House rules in order to bring the CR for a full floor vote. This would allow him to fast-track the process since he wouldn’t need to get approval for the rule.