Congress leaders consent to postpone government shutdown deadlines

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TL/DR –

Congressional leaders have agreed on a funding deal to avoid a partial government shutdown this weekend by extending the expiration dates for federal finances until later in March. Approximately 20% of the federal government, including departments such as Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture, were set to shut down unless new spending legislation was approved. The deal will extend funding for some departments until March 8 and others until March 22, giving lawmakers more time to finalize full-year spending legislation.


Congress Averts Weekend Government Shutdown with Funding Extension

A funding deal was agreed upon by Congressional leaders on Wednesday, averting a potential partial government shutdown this weekend and extending federal finances’ expiration dates into March. The deal is a step towards finalizing the details of a $1.7 trillion spending package.

Approximately 20% of the federal government, including Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture departments, was due to close at 12:01 a.m. Saturday without new spending legislation. With the leadership agreement in the House and Senate, the funding for these departments, along with the Commerce, Justice, and Interior departments, will now expire on March 8, a week later than initially planned. The rest of the government, including Defense and State departments, will have funding extended until March 22.

Informed sources confirmed the plan details, which were formally announced by House and Senate leaders on Wednesday afternoon. The House could vote on the legislation as early as Thursday. The extension gives lawmakers time to finalize full-year spending legislation for these agencies. However, the agreement initiates a scramble on Capitol Hill to approve the extension (also called a continuing resolution or CR) before midnight Friday to avoid even a brief shutdown.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) introduced the extension to Democrats who were initially receptive. “If that’s what it takes to get this done, then let’s do it. But this ‘kicking the can down the road’ crap really does need to stop,” stated Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), the top Democratic negotiator on the defense appropriations bill.

Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) met with President Biden to discuss the funding lapse, and left the meeting positive about a plan to prevent a shutdown. “Negotiators in both chambers continue working to ensure the government will not shut down at the end of the week,” Schumer stated optimistically on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

Congress has passed three short-term spending bills between September and January. The expiration dates for federal funding were staggered and then extended with another continuing resolution in January due to ongoing struggles to pass spending measures for the rest of the 2024 fiscal year.

However, policy demands from both Republicans and Democrats prolonged negotiations and pushed the brink of shutdown. Republicans loaded their spending bills with far-right policy demands, while Democrats requested additional funding for the federal anti-hunger program for low-income women, infants, and children.

Democrats pushed back against a provision allowing veterans needing help with federal benefits to own and purchase firearms. However, many of these demands began to fade as negotiators focused on a stopgap deal.

Republicans, especially in the House, found themselves with minimal leverage for their policy. House Speaker Johnson, who holds a narrow two-seat majority, faced ongoing stall tactics on the House floor from the archconservative Freedom Caucus, which repeatedly called for a year-long funding bill with automatic spending cuts. Such a proposal would likely lead to a shutdown, as preferred by Freedom Caucus members.

“If our House Republican colleagues of good will want to avert a shutdown — if they want to govern responsibly as they say they do — then they must resist the centrifugal pull of the extreme hard-right who want to burn everything down,” warned Schumer on the Senate floor.

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