Bipartisan Spending Bill Pushes Off Another Government Shutdown

The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through early March

On January 18th, both Houses of Congress voted to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded until early March. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reached a deal earlier in January for full-year spending bills totaling $1.6 trillion but weren’t able to hammer out the details before the government would have begun running out of money on Saturday, January 20th. The leadership of both parties hopes the additional time will allow them to pass the full-year appropriations bills and focus on reaching a deal covering funding for the US southern border and aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

While Speaker Johnson supported the bill, he had to rely heavily on Democratic legislators to pass the measure, as many Republicans hoped to receive greater concessions on spending cuts and border security. A slim majority of House Republicans voted for the bill, 107-106, while only 2 Democrats voted against it. The overall vote count was 314-108 in the House, while the Senate passed the bill 77-18. Although the Republicans hold a slight 220-213 majority in the House, they haven’t been able to pass anything without the support of Democrats, who control both the Senate and the White House. Many are concerned that the divided House won’t be able to pass the appropriations bills that would fund the government through September 2024. Dissenters among the Republicans have repeatedly held up the passage of bills to push for budget concessions, though to no avail thus far.

As members of Congress debated the bill, conservative members of the Republican party fought against what they see as the government continuing to run up the national debt with no concern. “It is Groundhog Day in the House chamber, all the time, every day, spending money we don’t have,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) (source). Republicans who supported the bill insisted it was the best deal they could get given the circumstances. Speaker Johnson told reporters, “We’re not going to get everything we want, but we’re going to stick to our core conservative principles. We’re going to advance fiscal stewardship,”(source). Senate Majority Leader Schumer expressed that Democrats were happy that a deal was reached - “We have good news for America: There will not be a shutdown on Friday because both sides have worked together,”(source).

The debate over spending is passionate because the country faces real issues regarding spending, taxation, and the looming national debt. While the national debt currently stands at 98% of GDP, that number is projected to double to 195% by 2053, fueled by interest costs and mandatory spending growth. Even though Congress has kept the government running for another month, deliberation over the federal budget will continue to be fierce. The differing views of the legislature ensure that compromise and concessions made by both sides will be necessary to move forward and pass any bills at all.

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