Congress eyes votes on major government funding bill to avoid shutdown this weekend

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders released a massive government funding bill with plans to pass it and avert a shutdown ahead of a late Friday deadline.

The 1,050-page legislation, released Sunday, would keep the government open until October. It’s a package of six appropriations bills that were negotiated between the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with President Joe Biden’s support.

House Republicans are eying a vote on the measure Wednesday through a fast-tracked process that requires a two-thirds majority to pass, according to a leadership aide. That satisfies Speaker Mike Johnson’s promise to give members at least 72 hours to read the bill.

Then it would go to the Senate, where it will need unanimous consent to vote quickly and require 60 votes to assure passage.

The bill represents a series of painstaking compromises that came nearly halfway through the fiscal year after four stopgap bills to extend the deadline. It gives each party something to tout.

Republicans highlighted cuts to the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; more funding for the Drug Enforcement Agency; measures that bolster gun rights for veterans; and restrictions on oil sales to China. Republicans noted that this was the first time since 2018 that the government was not funded through one massive omnibus package.

“House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to the President Biden’s agenda,” Johnson, R-La., said in a statement.

Democrats celebrated that the bill fully funds the “WIC” program — food assistance for women, infants, and children — as well as provides rental assistance, a firefighter pay raise and new investments in new air traffic controllers.

Speaking to reporters in New York on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was working around the clock trying to hammer out the details of the package.

“I was up till 3 in the morning trying to craft this. The negotiations were quite intense. I spoke to Speaker Johnson several times, but it’s a good thing,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

“Of course the clock is now ticking. We have to pass this bill by Friday,” he added. “But the fact that the four leaders — House, Senate, Democrat and Republican — have reached an agreement bodes well that the government will not run out of funds and shut down by Friday.”

The package covers funding for the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Interior and various other agencies. It doesn’t include funding for the rest of the government, including the Pentagon and State and Homeland Security departments, which faces a March 22 deadline. Congressional leaders still haven’t reached a deal on that tranche of funding.

When asked about the prospects of securing agreement on the next tranche of funding bills, House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, responded with one word: “Harder.”