Mar 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Congress releases $1.2 trillion bill to avert government shutdown

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, flanked by other Republican leaders in Capitol's studio A.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Congressional leaders early Thursday morning released the long-awaited text of a $1.2 trillion bill to keep the federal government funded through September.

Why it matters: It gives lawmakers just two days to consider the legislation before the government shutdown deadline on Friday.

  • That means House Republicans will likely need to waive a rule giving members 72 hours to consider legislation before voting on it.
  • The Senate may have difficulty securing swift passage of the bill, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) threatening to slow it down.

Zoom in: The bill keeps topline federal spending roughly steady at 2023 levels in accordance with the bipartisan debt ceiling deal passed last year. Both parties touted moderate victories in the bill:

  • Republicans pointing to modest cuts to agencies like the FBI and ETA, funding increases for border security and the Pentagon, and social policy provisions such as restrictions on certain flags at embassies.
  • Democrats have stressed that the bill avoids drastic cuts and policy riders pushed by right-wing hardliners, protecting abortion access and nutrition assistance for women and children.

Zoom in: The bill also continues a restriction on funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a Palestinian refugee agency that is the primary conduit for humanitarian aid to Gaza.

  • A dozen UNRWA staffers are alleged to have been involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, prompting the U.S. and other countries to cut off funding.

What they're saying: In a statement, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the bill imposes "substantial cuts to wasteful agencies and programs while strengthening border security and national defense."

  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement that Democrats "defeated outlandish cuts ... and we fought off scores of extreme policies" on abortion and climate change.
  • "We had to work within difficult fiscal constraints—but this bipartisan compromise will keep our country moving forward, and I hope all of my colleagues will work with us to get it signed into law as soon as possible," she added.
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