Congress races toward funding goal despite conservative outrage

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Congress is racing the clock to pass a $1.2 trillion funding bill before a Friday night shutdown deadline, aiming to quickly pass the sprawling legislation despite intense outrage from conservatives on both sides of the Capitol.

The House and Senate have less than 30 hours to pass the six-bill package, which will keep a number of departments and agencies funded after midnight Friday, as lawmakers seek to avoid a partial government shutdown and avert a weekend full of votes.

With that deadline approaching, leaders of both chambers are speeding up the consideration process, ignoring harsh criticism from conservatives (particularly in the House) who are criticizing the legislation’s high price tag, denouncing various expenses in the measure, and speaking out on the exclusion of their controversial political riders and targeting the leadership for the way they are taking the bill to the floor.

“In any bipartisan deal there are some Democrats and some Republicans who drop out,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.).

Asked if he is confident the bill will pass the House, Scalise responded “yes.”

The package of six bills establishes funding for about three-quarters of the federal government, including the departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and State.

Both sides are claiming victories on the legislation: Democrats have pointed to investments in child care and home programs, while Republican leaders are touting an increase in the number of detention beds for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. .and cuts to diversity, equity and inclusion programs. .

Passage of the measure will end the long and winding road to funding fiscal year 2024, which included four continuing resolutions, led to the first impeachment of a sitting president and caused frustration among members of both parties and chambers.

Leaders are eager to conclude the lengthy process.

“When passed, it will extinguish any threat of a shutdown for the remainder of the fiscal year, avoid the scythe of budget sequestration, and keep the government open without cuts or poisonous provisions,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) .) said on the floor Thursday morning, adding that some involved in the appropriations process are probably “beyond the point of exhaustion.”

The House will debate the spending bill around 9 a.m. ET on Friday, followed by a vote at 11 a.m. The House is adopting the legislation under suspension of the rules, a quick process that eliminates the need to first approve a rule, something conservatives would likely reject, but requires two-thirds support for passage.

Hardliners have lashed out at leaders, especially Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), for using procedural maneuvering to bring the bill to the floor, in addition to their decision to hold a vote less than 72 hours after publishing the text, violating the “72 hour rule” according to which intransigents have been inflexible throughout Congress.

“He made the deal with Schumer, he asks the floor for a vote, he directs the conditions under which it will be done (suspension of the rules, resignation after 72 hours), so yes, he will be responsible for the bill,” the representative said. Bob. Good (R-Va.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on Johnson.

They have also raised concerns about dollars set aside for the new FBI headquarters in Maryland and funds going to facilities that support the LGBTQ community, among other qualms.

Republican opposition, however, does not just come from members of the House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the Labor and Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee, announced Thursday night that he will vote against the spending package, raising concerns about service-related funding social services for immigrants and groups that help the LGBTQ community.

“The House did not include these partisan-funded projects in its Labor-HHS legislation. Based on these principles, neither should the Senate,” Aderholt wrote in a statement.

“In good conscience, I cannot and will not vote for these projects or this bill,” he added.

Despite this Republican opposition – and some resistance from progressivesparticularly because of the provision that would halt funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): the spending package is expected to pass the House with the support of centrist Democrats and Republicans.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that he expects “a substantial majority” of Democrats to vote for the bill.

The legislation will then head to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to quickly adopt the package to avoid a shutdown and quickly leave Washington for a two-week Easter recess.

Despite fears that final approval could drag into the weekend, the upper house is expected to give the green light to the minibus sometime on Friday and avoid a temporary partial closure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Tuesday that he had told his Republican colleagues that they would “probably be here this weekend,” but that thinking has changed.

Senate leaders have been working for two weeks, since the last government funding deadline, on a universe of amendments. One source said top Republicans were hoping to keep the final number of amendments below a dozen.

Among the GOP amendments that could receive a vote are those proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a leading critic of the package, which, however, is not expected to delay final approval and will allow time for recover it. to win amendment votes on issues related to spending cuts.

“Our concern is that the level of spending that would be based on this spending bill will lead to a $1.5 trillion deficit, and we believe the biggest threat to our country is our debt. … So we will have amendments to cut spending,” Paul said. “We think it’s really important that there be a debate about the level of debt our country faces.”

Votes are also expected on amendments related to the situation at the southern border, potentially including the Laken Riley Act that Senate Republicans introduced last week. Senator Ted Budd (R.N.C.) called about this to be included in the amendment package during a press conference on Thursday.

Other Senate business is playing into hopes of getting the package across the finish line on Friday. Several congressional delegations will leave this weekend to begin the two-week recess.

Members are also aware that the funeral for the mother of Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) will be held in her home state on Saturday.

Alexander Bolton and Sarah Fortinsky contributed.

Updated at 9:14 pm EST.

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