Congress Averts Shutdown With Almost No Time To Spare

Congress gave President Joe Biden a short-term budget package on Thursday to avoid a significant government shutdown and keep federal agencies funded until March.

The plan would allow more spending than they favored; thus, the House Freedom Caucus strongly opposed it just before the vote.

Still, 50% of Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the third short-term budget bill in as many months. The move followed the Senate’s 77–18 vote to approve the measure a few hours earlier.

The package offers more time for lawmakers to resolve their disagreements over full-year budget measures for the fiscal year that started in October while extending existing spending levels.

The interim measure will remain in place for some government agencies until March 1. On Friday, their finances were going to expire. It keeps the government running until March 8.

The conservative wing of Speaker Mike Johnson’s party has been on his side to abandon the $1.66 trillion budget proposal he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made earlier this month. The Texas Republican Chip Roy stated that the continuing resolution enacted on Thursday will make that arrangement easier to implement.

Johnson has maintained his commitment to the pact, and party moderates have rallied behind him. They argue that he would be weak in future discussions if he changed direction now because it would betray his commitment.

Since gaining control of the House in early 2023, Republicans have engaged in fierce bickering over spending priorities and other policy matters. After agreeing with Democrats to prolong existing spending for the first time, his caucus removed former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California in October. Johnson has also drawn criticism as he tries to win over his colleagues and prevent a government shutdown amid an election year.

To date, the majority of Republicans in the House have remained silent on the subject of Johnson’s employment status. However, his position in the House may be jeopardized if even a small number of Republicans were to defect.

On Wednesday, Johnson, Schumer, and other committee chairs and leaders from Congress visited the White House to discuss the funding bill. Johnson utilized the discussion to advocate for more robust border security measures, while Democrats and Biden outlined Ukraine’s security requirements in light of its ongoing conflict with Russia.

Biden has asked for a $110 billion package to fund the war effort and strengthen border security.