NATIONAL NEWS

Congress voting Thursday to avert shutdown and keep federal government funded through early March

Jan 18, 2024, 10:03 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is expected to extend current federal spending and keep the government open with votes in the Senate and House on Thursday, avoiding a shutdown and punting a final budget package until early March.

The stopgap bill comes after a bipartisan spending deal between House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., earlier this month and a subsequent agreement to extend current spending so the two chambers have enough time to pass individual spending bills. The temporary measure will run to March 1 for some federal agencies whose approved funds are set to run out Friday and extend the remainder of government operations to March 8.

Johnson has been under heavy pressure from his right flank to jettison the budget accord with Schumer, and the bill to keep the government open will need Democratic support to pass the Republican-majority House. But Johnson has insisted he will stick with the deal as moderates in the party have urged him not to back out.

The stopgap legislation will be the third time Congress has extended current spending as House Republicans have bitterly disagreed over budget levels and the right flank of the caucus has demanded steeper cuts. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his caucus in October after striking an agreement with Democrats to extend current spending the first time, and Johnson has also come under criticism as he has wrestled with how to appease his members and avoid a government shutdown in an election year.

“We just needed a little more time on the calendar to do it and now that’s where we are,” Johnson said Tuesday about the decision to extend federal funding yet again. “We’re not going to get everything we want.”

Most House Republicans have so far refrained from saying that Johnson’s job is in danger. But a revolt of even a handful of House Republicans could endanger his position in the narrowly divided House.

Virginia Rep. Bob Good, one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, has been pushing Johnson to reconsider the deal with Schumer.

“If your opponent in negotiation knows that you fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement more than they fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement, you will lose every time,” Good said this week.

Other Republicans acknowledge Johnson is in a tough spot. “The speaker was dealt with the hand he was dealt,” said Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr. “We can only lose one vote on the majority side. I think it’s going to have to be bipartisan.”

The stopgap measure comes amid negotiations on a separate spending package that would provide wartime dollars to Ukraine and Israel and strengthen border security. Johnson is also under pressure from the right not to accept a deal that is any weaker than a House-passed border measure that has no Democratic support.

Johnson, Schumer and other congressional leaders and committee heads visited the White House on Wednesday to discuss that spending legislation. Johnson used the meeting to push for stronger border security measures while President Joe Biden and Democrats detailed Ukraine’s security needs as it continues to fight Russia.

Biden has requested a $110 billion package for the wartime spending and border security.

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Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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