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Hours before closing, Senate rushes to pass $1.2 trillion spending bill


The House approved a $1.2 trillion spending package Friday hours before a midnight government shutdown deadline, squeezing the Senate against a clock to pass the measure and triggering repercussions that threatened the Party’s fragile majority Republican in the House.

The bill, which adopted by 286 votes to 134would fund about three-quarters of the federal government for the next six months, while increasing military salaries, eliminating U.S. funding for the U.N. relief agency for the Palestinians and strengthening security at the interstate border -United and Mexico.

But its passage through the House was more difficult than the vote totals might seem: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) violated House rules to force the bill past the hurdles from the far right, unleashing anger among some conservatives and weakening Johnson’s leadership. . The bill failed to win over a majority of Republican members, a red line for many in the Republican Party.

The adoption of the bill in the Senate is beyond doubt: it enjoys the support of the President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But a single senator can create procedural hurdles that push the government past the deadline and force a vote days later.

The consequences of a brief shutdown would be mostly mitigated: many federal employees at unfunded agencies would be off for the weekend anyway.

But if the shutdown continues, more than half of IRS employees will be furloughed at the height of tax filing season. Border Patrol agents and about 1.3 million active-duty military personnel would remain on the job without being paid. So would Transportation Security Administration screeners, many of whom called in sick in protest after a previous shutdown dragged on for weeks, causing travel delays across the board. national.

If the bill had not passed the House, it would have left Congress with few other ways to fund the government. A likely last resort would have been another stopgap solution to preserve existing funding, which could trigger cuts in defense spending.

“I want to be very clear: This is it,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (Calif.), the top Republican on the defense appropriations subcommittee. “Every member must understand the impact of not passing this package. The only other option will be a comprehensive and continuing resolution that will devastate our national security and put our country in danger.

If the Senate fails to reach an agreement to limit debate, consideration of the bill — and the government shutdown — could extend into next week. Schumer, on the Senate floor, said Congress had hours to avoid a shutdown and that the Senate would “move into action” as soon as it received the House legislation.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) have already signaled they will likely offer amendments, which would slow the Senate’s progress on the bill. If the upper chamber cannot reach unanimous consensus on how much time to spend on these amendments before a vote later Friday, Schumer will likely have to hold a vote on Sunday or even Monday, due to Senate procedural rules. Both chambers are scheduled to leave Washington for a 16-day recess after Friday, which could increase pressure on members to work quickly.

In the House, Johnson proposed the bill by suspending the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority — which meant Democrats had to support it — and allowing a quick vote that bypassed the usual requirement that lawmakers have 72 hours to review the legislation beforehand. they act. That angered members of the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right flank of the GOP conference, who already are at odds with the president over the amount of federal spending.

The measure narrowly exceeded the two-thirds margin; seven fewer votes would have caused the bill to fail. And as lawmakers voted, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a motion to oust Johnson from the speakership — the same procedure that threw the House into disarray in October and deprived Republicans of a much of their negotiating power during the presidential election. expenses talks.

“I’m not proposing this to throw the House into chaos,” Greene told reporters afterward, as Republican lawmakers fretted about the future of their slim majority. “…Our country is in crisis, and we need real leaders who know how to fight and who know how to walk in a room and who don’t allow themselves to be influenced by the deep state, or by the Democrats. »

Johnson met several times with group members to hear their concerns, but often chose to look beyond their demands and rely on Democratic votes to pass spending legislation despite opposition from members of the group. House Freedom Caucus of the powerful rules committee that sets the voting agenda. ground.

Of the five major federal funding bills Johnson has passed since his term as president began in October – three last-minute stopgap measures and two larger appropriations packages, including Friday — Democrats provided most of the votes.

“It contains a dangerous cocktail that the swamp has always served, and we are drunk on it today,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said during floor debate Friday. “What is this cocktail?” Budget assignments and gadgets.

The bill, however, marks the completion of This is Johnson’s first major bipartisan deal since he took the president’s gavel. His predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was ousted over spending disagreements with fellow Republicans and resigned from Congress in December.

To ease discord within his GOP conference, Johnson split the 12 annual spending bills, or appropriations, into two packages, hoping separate deadlines would give Republicans more leverage to push for funding cuts and policies conservative.

But in the first funding bill, worth $459 billion, Johnson and Republicans essentially abandoned their highest-profile demands. Congress passed this legislation, and Biden signed it earlier this month.

In Friday’s bill, Johnson achieved much more success. Republicans at the negotiating table with White House officials managed to turn provisions to fund the Department of Homeland Security into a broader fight over immigration policy.

“Simply put, this bill ensures that the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security who work tirelessly on our behalf have the resources and tools they need to protect this great nation,” said Rep. David Joyce (Ohio), the lead GOP negotiator on the DHS provisions, said on the House floor. “It reflects strong Republican priorities, reduces unnecessary spending and prioritizes securing the border. We cannot abandon this progress in favor of an unnecessary and harmful government shutdown.”

The legislation would increase funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to support approximately 42,000 detention center beds and fund 22,000 Border Patrol agents. It would also cut U.S. contributions by 20 percent to nongovernmental organizations that provide services to newcomers to the country. Lawmakers who want to restrict immigration argue that nonprofit groups encourage illegal crossings.

The Republicans were also able to ban federal funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the next 12 months. Israel has accused some agency employees of involvement in the October 7 attacks that killed some 1,200 Israelis and took hundreds more hostage to the Gaza strip by the terrorist group Hamas. A US intelligence assessment has would have verified some of Israel’s claims regarding UNRWA.

Democrats, who received most of the votes to pass the bill, expressed concern that the lack of aid funding could worsen the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“The atmosphere is one of exasperation. We had to vote not to shut down the United States government because the Republicans are not a ruling party. It’s a party of chaos. So we had to act responsibly,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Mary.) told the Washington Post. “But we are leaving for two weeks, scandalously, without having secured aid to our beleaguered democratic allies in Ukraine and without having secured aid to the suffering population of Gaza. This is simply a scandalous situation.

The bill also includes a 6 percent cut to foreign aid programs, which already account for a tiny share of federal spending, and a Republican change to the law banning unofficial U.S. flags from flying atop flags. American embassies. Republican lawmakers hope to use the provision, a slightly more restrictive version of which was previously in effect, to prevent Biden appointees from displaying Pride flags on official grounds at U.S. diplomatic outposts.

Democrats eliminated other policy provisions to limit abortion access and restrict the rights of LGBTQ Americans.

Some Democratic priorities also saw significant funding increases, including an additional $1 billion for the Head Start early education program and $1 billion for climate resilience funding at the Department of Defense. The legislation also provides an additional 12,000 special immigration visas for Afghans who have aided the U.S. military and are trying to escape the Taliban government.


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