Congress Passes Bill to Avert Government Shutdown, Sends Measure to Biden’s Desk
Congress Passes Bill to Avert Government Shutdown, Sends Measure to Biden’s Desk

By Savannah Hulsey Pointer and Joseph Lord

Congress has approved stopgap funding legislation one day before a government deadline, sending the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

House Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure on the evening of Jan. 18 in a 314–108 vote. Earlier in the day, the Senate approved the bill in a 77–18 vote.

The legislation extends the deadline for Congress to pass its annual appropriations bills to March 1 and March 8. The move marks Congress’ third stopgap spending bill in four months.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and the White House reached an agreement on the continuing resolution (CR) measure on Jan. 14 and released their plan to be voted on, in an effort to extend government funding that would otherwise partially run out on Jan. 19.

“To avoid a shutdown, it will take bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and the House to quickly pass the CR and send it to the President’s desk before Friday’s funding deadline,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement following the Jan. 14 agreement.

Mr. Johnson also said on Jan. 14 that it “is required to complete what House Republicans are working hard to achieve: an end to governance by omnibus, meaningful policy wins, and better stewardship of American tax dollars.”

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (R-N.Y.) said just hours before the vote: “We recognize that a partial government shutdown will hurt everyday Americans. … It’s my full expectation that House Democrats will continue to do the responsible thing.”

Legislation

A $1.59 trillion spending cap for the fiscal year was agreed upon by House and Senate leaders, mirroring the agreement reached last year during debt limit negotiations between then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden.

An extra $10 billion in IRS staff layoffs is part of the agreement, which modifies a previous arrangement. It also includes $6.1 billion in COVID-19 funding and an increase in defense spending to $886 billion.

Legislators negotiated a 5.2 percent pay raise for members of the military and $704 billion for other discretionary spending. A side agreement reached would provide roughly $70 billion in further nondefense appropriations.

Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) offered vehement disapproval from the House floor, asserting that conservative members of the House didn’t have an appropriate chance to amend the legislation, saying that they were “honoring the McCarthy-Schumer side deals from the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” referencing to the debt limit deal reached last year between then-Speaker McCarthy and the White House.

“And every bipartisan disagreement is solved simply by spending for the progress of the opposing party,” Mr. Crane said, before going on to point out what he asserted were “rich” comments by his Democratic colleagues concerned about the sovereignty of the Ukrainian border while declining to reinforce the southern border of the United States.

“Talk is cheap,” Mr. Crane said. “The American people deserve better.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) also weighed in, saying that voting for the CR would be “continued funding for the CBP One app that is being used to use U.S. parole abusively … We will fund the EV, natural gas, and methane rule destroying access to reliable energy … We will fund the World Health Organization undermining our own sovereignty and cozying up to the CCP.

“We will fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees to the Near East, which supports Hamas, over our ally Israel … We will be voting to their enemies right now today on the floor of the house. We will vote the pro-China, anti-Israel, United Nations Human Rights Council, and we will fund a weaponized Department of Justice and FBI.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said the CR would allow lawmakers “to draw out the calendar” so Republicans can achieve policy gains in the appropriations process.

“I’m here for policy wins,” Mr. McHenry told reports ahead of the vote. “I’m here for gains for the taxpayers and for economic growth. And for us to stick around here and make ourselves extend the pain is what creates suffering. And suffering is an active choice on the part of the majority.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) responded to the passage of the legislation on social media, saying: “Another day, another horrible continuing resolution passed in the nation’s capital. This CR means our border remains wide open and nothing will be done to lower our $34 trillion in national debt. We need more folks to stand up against the DC Cartel.”

House Freedom Caucus members had pleaded with Mr. Johnson at the last minute to include a vote on immigration and border policy measures in the current CR proposal.

“The Speaker is considering it, and he’s working through the mechanics to make sure that … we have the best path forward on how to do it within the legislative process,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chair of the Freedom Caucus, said while leaving Mr. Johnson’s office on Jan. 18 prior to the Senate vote.

Such a move would throw a wrench into the plan to avert a partial shutdown. However, a spokesperson for Johnson appeared to play down the idea.

“The plan has not changed. The House is voting on the stopgap measure tonight to keep the government open,” Johnson spokesperson Raj Shah posted on X in response to the Freedom Caucus push.

Conservatives within the House Republican Conference have spoken out against the agreement, pointing out that when discretionary expenditure is taken into account, the actual top-line amount is closer to $1.66 trillion.

“The House GOP is planning to pass a short-term spending bill continuing Pelosi levels with Biden policies, to buy time to pass longer-term spending bills at Pelosi levels with Biden policies. This is what surrender looks like,” the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Pressure on Johnson

Mr. Johnson’s agreement with the resolution has caused some Republicans to respond negatively to Mr. Johnson, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) who threatened to remove the House speaker from office if he consented to a funding bill that she doesn’t agree with.

Speaking to Real America’s Voice, Ms. Greene said she would support firing Mr. Johnson as leader if he doesn’t deliver for members of the party like herself who are getting tired of what they see as his failures.

“In my meeting with him yesterday [Jan. 11], and many other members of Congress, I let Speaker Johnson know that in no way shape and form will I support any type of CR,” Ms. Greene said on the Real America’s Voice Network’s “War Room” program on Jan. 12.

The Georgia Republican voiced her frustration that elements put in place by the previous House speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), were still in place and that Democrats were in the process of negotiating down border security and pushing for an increase in funding for Ukraine.

Following the threat from Ms. Greene to vacate his role if he approves the CR, Mr. Johnson stated that he is “not concerned” about being removed from office during a Jan. 17 interview.

During an interview with CNN, the lawmaker was questioned about whether he was concerned about meeting the same fate as his predecessor, the former speaker, Mr. McCarthy. Mr. Johnson said he isn’t concerned about the growing threats and he is focused on doing his job.

“I have a job to do,” Mr. Johnson said. “We all have to do our jobs. Marjorie Taylor Greene is very upset about the lack of oversight over the funding and over the lack of an articulation of a plan, as am I. … We have to continue to ensure that we’re covering all these bases and we’ll see how this all shakes out.”

Joseph Lord and Samantha Flom contributed to this report.

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