Spending bill worth $1.2 trillion passed by Congress following brief government shutdown

“It is a positive development for the country that we have achieved this bipartisan agreement,” expressed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, during his address on the Senate floor prior to the vote. He further added, “Though it was a challenging process, tonight, our perseverance has proven to be worthwhile.”

    • Defense Department
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • Department of Health and Human Services
    • State Department
    • Treasury Department
    • Labor Department
    • Education Department

In order to expedite the voting process, the vote on the spending bill was scheduled for Monday as per Senate rules. However, Schumer made a deal to have a few amendment votes in exchange for a faster vote on the bill.

The bill was passed on Friday with a vote of 286-134 in the House. It garnered more support from Democrats than Republicans, highlighting the ongoing divisions within the Republican conference. This demonstrates the Democrats’ ability to successfully push through spending bills and funding extensions in recent months.

Hard-right conservative lawmakers in the House expressed strong opposition to the funding package, criticizing the majority of bipartisan deals that have been approved in recent months.

Some have contended that House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., should have utilized the threat of a government shutdown to secure further compromises from Democrats. However, Johnson and the majority of his Republican colleagues in the House have consistently asserted that shutting down the government was never a viable option.

Many hard-right members expressed numerous frustrations. They argued that the spending package lacked sufficient measures to address migration at the southern border. They also believed that the spending cuts were not significant enough. Additionally, they pointed out that the appropriations bills included a total of $14.6 billion earmarked for state and local projects.

After the House passed the bill, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia took action by submitting a motion to remove Johnson from his leadership position. Interestingly, she deliberately omitted a provision that would have required an immediate vote on the resolution within two working days. Greene described her motion as a form of precautionary warning and a metaphorical pink slip for Johnson.

When the bill reached the Senate, there was immense pressure to reach an agreement before the midnight deadline.

Ultraconservative senators exerted their influence in the upper chamber by compelling their colleagues to vote on amendments to the legislation. Although all ten amendments put to vote on Friday were ultimately rejected, some senators utilized this opportunity to express their concerns regarding the spending bills on the Senate floor.

According to Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, Congress is on the verge of making a decision that no American family would ever make. He emphasized that Congress is about to spend a third more money than they actually receive, which he views as a reckless action that will ultimately lead to inflation. Senator Paul proposed an amendment to reduce overall spending by 5 percent, highlighting his concerns about the current situation.

What’s in the bill?

Republican leaders were quick to highlight their own successes from the bipartisan compromise.

Republican negotiators advocated for a boost in funding to support an additional 22,000 border patrol agents and increase the detention bed capacity for migrants at the southern border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Funding for UNRWA, a United Nations relief agency providing aid to Palestinians in Gaza, was also stopped after Israel accused 12 of the agency’s staff members of abetting the October 7 attack by Hamas. This move has been a longstanding priority for Republicans.

Several House Democrats who voted against the bill expressed their opposition to defunding the aid organization.

Democrats also celebrated their victories, highlighting a significant investment of $1 billion in child care and Head Start, a program dedicated to early childhood development for low-income families. Additionally, they secured funding for critical research on Alzheimer’s and cancer, along with other important initiatives.

Democrats also took the opportunity to celebrate the exclusion of conservative policy add-ons that Republicans had been pushing for in the bill.

“We worked with challenging topline figures and faced numerous extreme Republican amendments in the House, not to mention some drastic budget cuts,” stated Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., during her speech on the Senate floor on Friday. She continued, “Despite these obstacles, we were able to pass a bill that will ensure progress and prosperity for our nation and its families.”

How did we get here?

It took a tumultuous journey to finally pass the spending bills, which occurred approximately six months into the fiscal year they were meant to fund.

Last May, the debt ceiling issue took center stage when former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, and President Joe Biden reached an agreement. This deal, known as “The Fiscal Responsibility Act,” involved raising the debt ceiling while implementing caps on future spending.

Hard-line Republicans insisted on more extensive budget cuts when it was time to draft appropriations bills that aligned with the agreement. In order to prevent a government shutdown, McCarthy collaborated with Democrats and extended the funding deadline beyond September.

After facing a backlash led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., he was forced to step down from his position. However, John managed to bounce back and was eventually elected as the new Speaker after a tumultuous three weeks.

Johnson found himself under pressure from his conservative colleagues to secure additional policy victories from the Democrats. The deadline for funding was repeatedly extended as negotiators struggled to reach a consensus, but they eventually managed to come to an agreement on the bills in March.

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