Mar 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Congress reaches tentative deal to avoid government shutdown

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) speaks to the press after meeting

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks to the press after meeting with President Biden. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Top lawmakers and the White House have reached a preliminary deal to fund key agencies after delays cause by partisan fights over the border.

Why it matters: If this deal goes through, it's a milestone for Speaker Mike Johnson, who will have accomplished what his predecessor could not by passing a budget — even if it was 5 months overdue.

  • But text is still not finished, and Congress is running out of time ahead of Friday's deadline.
  • Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman on X was first to report on the tentative deal.
  • Top conservatives are already calling for the conference to vote against any package of spending bills unless it includes drastic changes to border policy, according to a letter signed by 43 GOP members.

How we got here: The Homeland Security bill was causing so many problems that congressional leaders were planning to punt the problem and use a stopgap measure to fund the agency.

  • But Saturday night, the White House rejected the short-term funding offer — causing a last-minute scramble, congressional and administration sources told Axios.
  • The White House rejected the offer because it did not come close to getting DHS through September as it continues dealing with historic migration at the border, two of the sources said.

The big picture: DHS has been the last piece of the puzzle, on what was the more complicated of two slates of spending bills — or "minibuses."

  • Appropriators even managed to reach a resolution for a State bill over funding for the U.N. agency focused on providing relief for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which caused initial roadblocks.
  • Republicans were adamant about blocking funding for the agency due to Israel's allegations that some of UNRWA's staffers were involved in Hamas's attack on Israel in October.
  • Even with the deal, lawmakers will likely have to waive their own rules or agree to pass another temporary spending measure to buy the Senate a few more days or deal with a weekend or short-term shutdown.

Between the lines: A short-term funding bill for DHS that didn't significantly boost its spending ability could be devastating for the agency's border efforts, as Axios has reported.

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