Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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    Biden announces government funding deal that could avert shutdown

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    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and congressional leaders announced Tuesday that they had reached a government funding deal, signaling the close of a monthslong saga that featured numerous shutdown threats.

    With a tight window left to consider funding bills, it is possible that there will still be a brief government shutdown over the weekend. However, it will likely have little impact on services or federal workers unless it stretches into next week.

    “We have come to an agreement with Congressional leaders on a path forward for the remaining full-year funding bills,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “The House and Senate are now working to finalize a package that can quickly be brought to the floor, and I will sign it immediately.”

    House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a separate statement that negotiators reached a deal on spending for the Department of Homeland Security, which had become a flashpoint over the weekend. This “will allow completion of the (fiscal year 2024) appropriations process.”

    If lawmakers aren’t able to pass the bills in time, a longer funding gap would lead to a government shutdown that could have real effects for many Americans.

    A shutdown means all officials and federal agencies that aren’t deemed “essential” have to stop working. Thousands of federal employees would be furloughed and go without pay, though they are typically paid for that time once they come back to work. Government subcontractors could also be out of work and would not receive back pay.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Tuesday that he is “hopeful” lawmakers can finish the process “without causing a lapse in government services.”

    Lawmakers had initially planned to release the legislation on Sunday, but disagreements over border security funding got in the way of a deal. Now, lawmakers are racing to put together a bill they can release in time to avoid the 12:01 a.m. Saturday deadline for a partial shutdown.

    The timing is tough: The House requires a 72-hour period to consider legislation before it can be voted on. If the bill is released Tuesday, the House would likely vote on it on Friday. The Senate could consider it the same day – but only if all 100 senators agree to speed up the process, leaving it vulnerable to last-minute complications.

    However, the agreement signals the end of the shutdown scares that have dogged Congress for months. There have been 20 federal “funding gaps” since 1977, according to the Congressional Research Service, about half of which were three days or fewer. These short gaps don’t typically lead to a shutdown because agencies don’t have enough time to wind down projects before funding kicks in again.

    Every year, Congress has to pass 12 individual spending bills to fund the government long term. Lawmakers passed six of them earlier this month; the remaining six fund around 70% of the federal government.

    The outstanding bills are related to:

    • Defense.
    • Financial services and general government.
    • Homeland security.
    • Labor, health and human services, education.
    • Legislative branch.
    • State and foreign operations.

    The homeland security bill has been the wrench in negotiations as Republicans pushed for border security provisions. But the White House and Congressional Republicans reached a deal Monday night that will allow it to move forward.

    All of the appropriations bills were initially due on Sept. 30 last year. Under political pressure from some of the most conservative lawmakers, Congress agreed to extend the deadline four times to buy more time to agree to a deal.

    The funding process has taken so long that the next one is about to begin: Biden released his new budget request last week.

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