State of Washington lawmakers react to Congress’ vote to avert shutdown

Jan 18, 2024, 7:58 PM | Updated: 8:04 pm

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 13, 2023....

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (File photo: Mariam Zuhaib, AP)

(File photo: Mariam Zuhaib, AP)

Congress sent President Joe Biden a short-term spending bill on Thursday that would avert a looming partial government shutdown and fund federal agencies into March.

The House approved the measure by a vote of 314-108, with opposition coming mostly from the more conservative members of the Republican conference. Shortly before the vote, the House Freedom Caucus announced it “strongly opposes” the measure because it would facilitate more spending than they support.

Nevertheless, about half of Republicans joined with Democrats in passing the third stopgap funding measure in recent months. The action came a few hours after the Senate had voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill by a vote of 77-18.

The measure extends current spending levels and buys time for the two chambers to work out their differences over full-year spending bills for the fiscal year that began in October.

The temporary measure will run to March 1 for some federal agencies. Their funds were set to run out Friday. It extends the remainder of government operations to March 8.

Not again: Federal workers who’ve weathered past government shutdowns brace for yet another ordeal

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president would sign the resolution and urged Republicans to quit wasting time on partisan spending bills.

“House Republicans must finally do their job and work across the aisle to pass full-year funding bills that deliver for the American people and address urgent domestic and national security priorities by passing the President’s supplemental request,” Jean-Pierre said.

State of Washington lawmakers speak out about the move

Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, delivered a message on the Senate floor Thursday before the temporary spending bill passed both chambers.

“I have been working nonstop with my colleagues in both chambers to keep this process moving as quickly as we possibly can so that we can write and pass the strongest possible funding bills,”  Murray said. “Passing this measure will allow us the time we need to hammer out those funding bills for Fiscal Year ‘24—after many months of needless delays. I think we all want this to be a drama-free and reliable process.”

Murray also called out the work that needed to be done, noting “it has to happen in a bipartisan way.”

“So, let’s pass this (resolution) now and then work to make sure it is the last by keeping our focus on finalizing serious appropriations bills—which means: no partisan poison pills, and understanding that there needs to be a bipartisan agreement when it comes to key investments in our country’s future.”

In a statement with the headline, “Congress temporarily averts another Republican shutdown” Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, WA-1, noted the passage of the funding bill, but also placed blame on one particular group for the inability to get a long-term deal done.

“Nearly a third of the way into this fiscal year, Congress has been forced to pass a third temporary funding bill to avoid the federal government shutting down because of House Republicans’ inability to govern,” DelBene said in the statement Thursday. “The bipartisan toplines for this fiscal year were agreed to by the House and Senate last May and only now have House Republicans accepted that reality. This cycle of short-term funding measures hurts the federal government’s ability to support American families and undermines faith in our economy.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, WA-3, also released a statement regarding her vote for the stopgap measure to avert a shutdown.

“I voted to protect Southwest Washington families and our economy from a destructive government shutdown,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in her statement.

But she also added that she doesn’t want to see these short-term bills become a regular occurrence and introduced legislation to tackle the issue.

“Repeatedly funding our government with temporary stopgap measures shouldn’t become the new normal,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “It’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation to revamp our annual budget process and finally address our growing deficit for the sake of American taxpayers.”

She added that she hopes Congress will reach “a bipartisan agreement on full-year funding bills, as well as much-needed support to secure our southern border and assistance for our allies Ukraine and Israel to defend their democracies.”

House Speaker under pressure

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has been under pressure from his right flank to scrap a $1.66 trillion budget price tag he reached with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month for the spending bills. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the continuing resolution passed Thursday will facilitate that agreement, and urged colleagues to vote against it.

“It’s Groundhog Day in the House chamber all the time, every day, yet again spending money we don’t have,” Roy said.

What happens in a shutdown? A look at what could occur

Johnson has insisted he will stick with the deal, and centrists in the party have stood behind him. They say that changing course now would be going back on his word and would weaken the speaker in future negotiations.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Americans expect Congress to govern and work in a bipartisan fashion.

“Some of my colleagues would see that this government would shut down and don’t care how hurtful that would be,” DeLauro said.

House Republicans have fought bitterly over budget levels and policy since taking the majority at the start of 2023. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted by his caucus in October after striking an agreement with Democrats to extend current spending the first time. 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 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, noting the constraints imposed by the party’s slim majority.

Looking more at Thursday’s vote

In Thursday afternoon’s vote, 107 House Republicans voted to keep federal agencies funded and 106 voted against the measure. To almost lose the majority of his conference underscores the challenges facing the new speaker and signals the difficulty he will have in striking a deal that will not alienate many of his GOP colleagues. They are clamoring for deeper non-defense spending cuts and myriad conservative policy mandates.

Meanwhile, 207 Democrats voted for the resolution and only two voted against.

The short-term measure comes amid negotiations on a separate spending package that would provide wartime dollars to Ukraine and Israel and strengthen security at the U.S.-Mexico border. 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 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.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

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