Congress Has a Bill to Fund Government but Not Much Time

Partial shutdown over the weekend is possible, even if the usual rules are ignored
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2024 7:05 PM CDT
Congress Has a Bill to Fund Government but Not Much Time
From left, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Mike Johnson attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for surviving members of a top-secret World War II unit at the Capitol on Thursday.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Time is almost up—again—for Congress to provide the funding to keep government operating. Negotiators agreed Thursday on a $1.2 trillion spending bill but might not be able to get it through both houses by the Friday midnight deadline, the New York Times reports. The obstacles include burdensome congressional rules, and bending them to hurry the process might not be enough—though the bill has broad support in both chambers. With a partial shutdown possible over the weekend, White House officials implored the legislative branch on Thursday to "send this critical legislation to the president's desk for signature without delay." The funding would run through September.

At risk are more than half the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and health agencies. A weekend shutdown wouldn't be catastrophic, per the Washington Post, but anything longer would cause problems. More than half of the IRS' employees could go on furlough at an awkward time. Active-duty military personnel, Border Patrol officers, and TSA screeners would go unpaid. The first rule was set aside Thursday evening, when House Republican leaders scheduled a floor vote for Friday morning; members are supposed to have at least 72 hours to consider a bill before voting on it.

The situation in the Senate is dicier. Several GOP senators have indicated they'll propose amendments to slow the bill down. Senate rules mean a Friday vote on the floor could quickly roll into a Sunday or a Monday vote instead. The compromise plan would hold spending on domestic programs steady but allocate more for veterans programs and the Pentagon. Foreign aid would be reduced. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor that it's up to House Republican leaders to keep the bill moving. Once in place, he said, the legislation "will extinguish any more shutdown threats for the rest of the fiscal year, it will avoid the scythe of budget sequestration, and it will keep the government open without cuts or poison pill riders." (More government shutdown stories.)

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