Senate Lawmakers Take First Steps in Advancing Bill to Prevent Government Shutdown

Measure grants both chambers more time to approve longer-term funding
Senate Lawmakers Take First Steps in Advancing Bill to Prevent Government Shutdown
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) at a Menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, on Dec. 12, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Senate lawmakers on Jan. 16 took the first steps aimed at preventing a partial government shutdown, ahead of a rapidly approaching deadline scheduled for the end of the week.

Lawmakers in the upper chamber voted 68-13 to begin voting on a temporary stopgap spending bill—the third temporary spending measure this fiscal year—overcoming the first procedural hurdle and moving it closer to passage ahead of the Jan. 19 deadline.
Once passed, the legislation—known as a continuing resolution (CR)—is expected to be promptly considered by House lawmakers.

The measure would fund the government at current levels, temporarily extending funding for some federal agencies until March 1 and for others through March 8. The arrangement grants both chambers more time to approve longer-term funding for fiscal year 2024.

However, the legislation is likely to face opposition from some lawmakers who have indicated they would not support another stopgap funding bill.

Speaking from the Senate Floor on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’s hopeful both Democrats and Republicans will be able to “wrap up work on the CR no later than Thursday,” provided both sides continue to work in good faith.

“The key to finishing our work this week will be bipartisan cooperation, in both chambers. You can’t pass these bills without support from Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate,” the New York Democrat said.

Mr. Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) unveiled the text of the CR on Sunday following negotiations alongside House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and the White House.

Funding Must be Tied to Border Security

Under the resolution, funding for agriculture, nutrition, transportation, housing, energy, military construction, and veterans affairs programs, set to expire on Friday, would be extended through March 1.

Meanwhile, appropriations for the remaining agencies, including defense, homeland security, the State Department, and Labor-HHS-Education, which currently expire on Feb. 2, would be extended until March 8.

Last week, Mr. Johnson announced that he had reached a deal with President Joe Biden and Mr. Schumer on topline funding figures which would set spending at nearly $1.66 trillion overall, including $886 billion for defense and $704 billion for non-defense expenditures, with a further $70 billion for other non-defense appropriations as part of a side agreement reached.

However, the deal has faced criticism from Republican lawmakers who hope to slash soaring government spending and have sought to add policy provisions to spending legislation, including measures to secure the U.S. southern border.

“If the border is not secured, this government does not deserve to be funded,” Representative Byron Donalds of Florida said on Fox News on Sunday. “We will fund the Department of Defense, we’ll pay our troops, we’ll take care of our veterans and V.A., we’ll even make sure our border agents are paid to have some semblance of security. But the rest of this government doesn’t deserve money if our border continues to be open the way that it is.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Dec. 12, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Dec. 12, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Johnson Defends Deal

The House Freedom Caucus, meanwhile, said Mr. Johnson’s decision to agree to a CR amounted to “a surrender.” Some Republicans are actively calling for shutting down the government.
Mr. Johnson defended the topline agreement in a statement on Sunday, saying the agreement “reduces the worst gimmicks included in the previous side deals in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and now includes $16 billion in additional real spending cuts from the Democrats’ IRS and COVID-era slush funds.”

“Because the completion deadlines are upon us, a short continuing resolution is required to complete what House Republicans are working hard to achieve: an end to governance by omnibus, meaningful policy wins, and better stewardship of American tax dollars,” the House Speaker said.

During Tuesday’s remarks on the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer also appeared to take aim at Republican lawmakers who are in opposition to the agreement and the resolution, noting that while “most Democrats and Republicans want to avoid a shutdown, a small group of hard-right extremists seem dead set on making a shutdown a reality.”

“With little leverage to actually enact their agenda, these extremists have tried again and again to bully the speaker, bully their own Republican colleagues, and bully the country into accepting their hard-right views,” the Democrat said. “I hope both sides can continue working together this week to move forward with the CR quickly and prevent a government shutdown before the Friday deadline.”

Reuters contributed to this report.