Government shutdown update: Senate races the clock to pass funding bills ahead of Friday deadline

A shutdown is not expected but lawmakers must still lock in a time to hold a vote, which requires agreement from all 100 senators

ByClare Foran, Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer, CNN
Friday, March 8, 2024
Congress to introduce spending bills ahead of Friday government shutdown deadline
Top lawmakers unveiled a finalized package of six government funding bills Sunday evening

WASHINGTON -- The Senate is racing the clock to pass a package of six government funding bills ahead of a shutdown deadline at the end of the day Friday.

The video featured is from a previous report.

A shutdown is not expected, but lawmakers must still lock in a time to hold a vote, which requires agreement from all 100 senators.

Once the package of funding bills passes the Senate, it can be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law as the House passed the measure on Wednesday. Lawmakers are up against a pair of upcoming shutdown deadlines on Friday and March 22.

The finalized package of spending bills - backed by the top Democrats and Republicans in both chambers - represents a major breakthrough for lawmakers. After months of averting shutdowns at the eleventh hour with stopgap bills, Congress is now finally on the verge of passing updated legislation to fund critical government departments and agencies throughout the rest of the fiscal year. But the work isn't over yet: Lawmakers still need to finalize and pass a second slate of funding bills prior to the March 22 deadline.

Democrats and Republicans have both claimed wins in the spending package, which includes funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction and other federal programs.

The package will support a wide array of programs and initiatives, including hiring new air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors; medical care and benefits for veterans; and science, technology and research programs aimed at bolstering US economic competitiveness and competition specifically with China in fields including artificial intelligence.

House Republicans, who have an extremely narrow majority, passed the package on a bipartisan basis on Wednesday. The vote was 339 to 85, with 132 Republicans voting in favor and 83 Republicans opposed. Two Democrats voted in opposition.

Democrats have highlighted that the package funds key social safety net programs, including providing $7 billion for the WIC program, which delivers nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, a $1 billion increase from the prior fiscal year. The package also includes funding for rental assistance and other child nutrition programs, including the school lunch program.

Republicans, meanwhile, have touted some spending cuts in the legislation as well as conservative policy riders.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has faced criticism from his right flank over his handling of the government spending fight, said in a statement, "This legislation forbids the Department of Justice from targeting parents exercising their right to free speech before school boards, while it blocks the Biden Administration from stripping Second Amendment rights from veterans. It imposes deep cuts to the EPA, ATF and FBI, which under the Biden Administration have threatened our freedoms and our economy, while it fully funds veterans' health care."

In a sign of opposition from conservatives, the hardline House Freedom Caucus took an official position against the spending package, saying in a statement that it "punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority" and "surrenders Republicans' leverage to force radical Democrats to the table to truly secure the southern border."

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