Congress Strikes Deal on $1.66 Trillion Government Funding to Avert Shutdown
Congressional leaders declared on Sunday a landmark agreement on a $1.66 trillion spending package for the remainder of 2024, as they seek to thwart a potential government shutdown looming on the horizon.
Averting Crisis: The Agreement’s Topline
The bipartisan deal, championed by House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, outlines $886 billion for defense and $772.7 billion for non-defense spending. This figure marginally surpasses the previous bipartisan deal of $1.59 trillion, signifying adjustments in discretionary spending under a side deal struck between President Joe Biden and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
According to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, this topline appropriations agreement clears the path for critical congressional action, safeguarding funding priorities and sidestepping a government shutdown.
“The bipartisan topline appropriations agreement clears the way for Congress to act over the next few weeks in order to maintain important funding priorities for the American people and avoid a government shutdown,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both New York Democrats, said in a statement Sunday.
Timely Negotiations amid Looming Deadlines
Congress faces pressing deadlines to prevent a government shutdown, with separate funding streams set to expire on January 19 and February 2, encompassing essential sectors such as veterans programs, transportation, housing, and defense.
Challenges persist as disagreements over spending levels hamper negotiations. House Republicans are pushing for considerably lower spending levels compared to the bipartisan budget established last May, complicating efforts to finalize the appropriations bills.
House Speaker Mike Johnson acknowledged that the agreement might not fully satisfy everyone, emphasizing that it falls short of the stringent spending cuts desired by many Republicans. Yet, he hailed it as the most favorable budget agreement achieved by Republicans in over a decade.
The House Freedom Caucus, a conservative Republican group within Congress, called the deal a “total failure”.
“Sad to say but the spending epidemic in Washington continues with both parties being culpable,” said Andy Biggs, the group’s former chairman.
Senate Appropriations Committee’s top Republican, Susan Collins, stressed the urgency of avoiding a shutdown while expressing concerns over the limited time to negotiate and pass appropriations bills.
“We must avoid a shutdown, but Congress now faces the challenge of having only 12 days to negotiate and write language, secure passage by both chambers, and get the first four appropriations bills signed into law,” Collins said.
Echoes of Caution and Optimism
Both leaders expressed hope in the prospects of a deal soon, highlighting the significant progress made through continuous engagements between the Senate, House, and the White House.
As the clock ticks towards the deadlines, Congress faces a challenging task of finalizing, approving, and enacting the appropriations bills into law within a short 12-day window.
Johnson outlined hard-fought concessions secured from Democrats, involving significant cuts to IRS mandatory funding and reductions in COVID-era spending.
Schumer and Jeffries have taken a firm stance against including contentious policy changes in the appropriations bills, emphasizing the need to safeguard domestic priorities and investments vital for American families.
Meanwhile, negotiations remain stalled concerning a separate bill earmarking an additional $50 billion in military aid for Ukraine. Disagreements persist as lawmakers grapple over migration policies along America’s southern border.
In October, the interim funding agreement crucially omitted new aid for Kyiv, a considerable setback for Democrats who had placed substantial emphasis on this allocation.
Certain Republican factions argue that further financial support could adversely affect America’s strategic interests, fueling the ongoing impasse.
To date, Congress has authorized over $100 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.
Discussions continue concerning the provision of heightened security aid to Israel as it intensifies efforts to neutralize Hamas in the wake of the October 7 attacks.
Schumer said last week that he was hopeful there would be an agreement soon.
“We’ve made real good progress,” he said of budget negotiations. “I’m hopeful that we can get a budget agreement soon. And I’m hopeful that we could avoid a shutdown, given the progress we’ve made.”