Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Senate Survives Turbulent Last-Minute Clashes, Greenlights Colossal $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown

With Help From Dems, Massive Funding Measure Clears Congress Despite Conservative Revolt.

government shutdown
Photo: Stephen Melkisethian

The Senate passed a sweeping $1.2 trillion government funding bill early Saturday morning around 2 a.m. ET, narrowly averting a government shutdown after a tumultuous day of negotiations and political maneuvering on Capitol Hill. The 74-24 vote came more than 12 hours after the House approved the measure in a 286-134 vote, with Democrats rallying to provide the necessary support to overcome fierce opposition from conservative Republicans.

The 1,012-page legislative package, which combines six spending bills, faced an uphill battle in the House as ultraconservatives revolted over the bipartisan spending agreement. They accused Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) of negotiating legislation that amounted to an “atrocious attack on the American people,” in the words of unhinged Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

MTG even introduced a motion to vacate to oust Johnson from his post, though no other Republican has publicly supported the move. A member of the Freedom Caucus anonymously said, “I have no comment on anything she does or says. I suspect she’s doing it so you all will talk about it … so she gets the attention, which, obviously, is working.”

Despite the political price paid by Johnson, the bill ultimately passed with the help of Democrats. Just 101 Republicans, fewer than half, supported the measure, leaving it to Democrats to supply the bulk of the votes.

Mike Johnson
Photo: Gage Skidmore

The spending package includes funding for various government agencies, such as the departments of State, Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. Republicans secured provisions such as funding for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, additional detention beds run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a cut in aid to the main U.N. agency that provides assistance to Palestinians. The bill also increases funding for technology at the southern border by about 25 percent, while cutting funding for the State Department and foreign aid programs by roughly 6 percent.

Democrats, on the other hand, secured a combined $1 billion in new funding for federal child care and education programs and a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, expressed satisfaction that many of the extreme cuts and policies proposed by House Republicans were rejected.

The Senate’s passage of the bill came after heated last-minute negotiations resulted in a breach of the midnight deadline to avert a shutdown. However, the funding lapse was brief and technical, having no meaningful impact as the White House said it had “ceased shutdown preparations” due to a Senate agreement reached after Republicans demanded votes on a series of amendments.

The back-and-forth between senators highlighted the frustration and dysfunction in Congress, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), claiming that vulnerable Democrats in key Senate races were afraid to vote on amendments that could be used against them in their re-election campaigns. Sen. Jon Tester, (D-Mont.), who is in a tight re-election race in a red state, fired back at Cotton, denying the accusation and suggesting that Cotton was “full of something that comes off the back of a cow.”

Despite the challenges and delays, the passage of the spending bill marks a significant accomplishment for a divided Congress that has narrowly averted multiple shutdowns this session. Sen. Chris Murphy, (D-Conn.), acknowledged the difficulties but emphasized the importance of Congress finally passing all 12 appropriations bills in a year, given the slim majorities and dysfunction in the House.

The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, completing a turbulent government funding process that has taken nearly six months and involved intense partisan clashes over money and policy. The full government will be funded through the end of September, with a total spending level of $1.659 trillion for the fiscal year.

As the dust settles on this latest funding battle, questions remain about the long-term sustainability of the current political climate in Washington. The deep divisions and brinkmanship that have characterized recent negotiations underscore the challenges facing lawmakers as they attempt to govern in an increasingly polarized environment. It remains to be seen whether the lessons learned from this experience will lead to a more collaborative and efficient approach to future spending bills. Or if the cycle of last-minute deals and shutdown threats by Republicans will continue to define the legislative process.