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Stopgap Spending Bill Clears The Senate To Avert Government Shutdown For Another Week

The Senate on Thursday passed a continuing resolution (CR), the fourth of the fiscal year, to avert a government shutdown scheduled for Friday, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives have completely discharged any of the 12 appropriations bills required to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2024, leading to multiple continuing resolutions since Sept. 30 to avert shutdowns. Since the last such CR, no bill was passed, leading the House to pass another CR extending the shutdown deadline to March 8, which the Senate passed on Thursday in a vote of 77 yeas to 13 nays.

“I am pleased that Democrats have just reached an agreement with the Republicans to pass a temporary extension of government funding tonight,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in remarks on the Senate floor before the bill was passed. “This agreement is an important step because we not only avoid a shutdown on Friday, we also clear the way for passing the first six appropriations bills next week. We want to move quickly.”

The CR prolongs the deadline for the expiry of government funding to March 8 for the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation as well as Housing and Urban Development, among others. The remaining departments and independent agencies will have their funding expire on March 22.

Under the previous CR passed on Jan. 18, government funding would have expired on March 1 for the first set of departments and March 8 for the others. On Wednesday, congressional leaders of both party caucuses in both houses issued a joint statement setting out a timeline to complete the 2024 appropriations process.

“Negotiators have come to an agreement on six bills: Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD. After preparing final text, this package of six full-year Appropriations bills will be voted on and enacted prior to March 8. These bills will adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility Act discretionary spending limits and January’s topline spending agreement,” wrote the leaders in a press release issued by House Speaker Mike Johnson. “The remaining six Appropriations bills – Defense, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations – will be finalized, voted on, and enacted prior to March 22.”

The Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House have disputed both provisions of bills and overall spending levels for the 2024 appropriations process. Johnson and Schumer announced a deal on Jan. 7 regarding provisions in bills to ensure they may be passed by both houses, which many conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives have opposed.

“I don’t think that the group of people that we have up here were ever serious about doing the appropriations process,” Republican Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Feb. 14. “I’ve been really frustrated. The fact of the matter is, this isn’t a conservative conference.”

Shortly before the vote, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, an opponent of the C.R., submitted an amendment to the bill, which was rejected by a vote of 37 yeas to 53 nays. Other amendments from Republican Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah to send the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee, to draft a full-year C.R. were rejected by large margins.

A fourth amendment, by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, that would seek to add H.R. 2, the “Secure the Border Act” passed by the Republican-led House in May of 2023, also failed by a vote of 32 yeas to 58 nays.

“I’m really glad we have clear consensus that no one wants to see a government shutdown and preventing one now will require a very short C.R. so we can continue making good progress on our full-year funding bills,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray on the Senate floor. “If bipartisan cooperation prevails, I am very confident we can at long last, at long last, wrap up our FY-24 bills.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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