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Sunday, February 25, 2024

House Republicans put forth short-term deal to fund government

Washington — A group of House Republicans announced Sunday that they reached agreement on a short-term measure that would keep the government funded through the end of October, putting forward an opening bid to avert a partial government shutdown before the end-of-month deadline facing Congress.

The short-term measure, known as a continuing resolution, would fund the government through Oct. 31 and cut nearly 1% from current spending levels. The Defense Department and Veterans Affairs would not see their funding levels slashed, though the other agencies would have their budgets temporarily cut by roughly 8%.

The 165-page bill doesn’t include additional aid to Ukraine — several House Republicans oppose sending any more money to Ukraine, though Senate GOP leaders have advocated for additional assistance. President Biden has asked Congress to provide roughly $20 billion in defense and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to meet with senators on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Also absent from the proposal is the White House’s request for $16 billion for disaster relief.

The stopgap bill includes a House-passed border security proposal that orders construction of the border wall to resume, boosts the ranks of Border Patrol agents and tightens asylum rules. The plan included in the continuing resolution, though, leaves out a provision of the immigration bill related to E-Verify, which allows employers to confirm the eligibility of employees to work in the U.S.

The stopgap measure was negotiated by members of the self-described pragmatic Main Street Caucus and conservative House Freedom Caucus, two of the factions within the broader House Republican Caucus.

Members of the two groups worked over the weekend on the deal to fund the government and address border security, Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Freedom Caucus, said.

“We now have a framework for our colleagues across the House Republican Conference,” Perry said in a statement.

Leaders of the House Main Street Caucus said the measure is “laser-focused on fixing the crisis at our southern border.”

“Over the next several days, we’ll work together to build support for this CR, to pass the defense appropriations bill, and to make progress on other appropriations bills that bend the curve on out-of-control spending,” Reps. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota said in a statement.

But the deal was quickly panned by some conservative lawmakers, including several members of the House Freedom Caucus, the leader of which is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale called the plan a “continuation of Nancy Pelosi’s budget and Joe Biden’s policies,” while North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop urged Congress to pass bills funding individual agencies. Arizona Rep. Eli Crane simply posted “no” to social media.

Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, a moderate Republican whose district is along the U.S.-Mexico border, pushed back on the measure.

“It’s crystal clear a Gov’t shutdown is coming,” he posted to X, the site previously known as Twitter. “I represent 66% of the Texas-Mexico border – a hollow Continuing Resolution built to win a messaging battle does nothing to keep America safe.”

The swift flood of pushback from Republican lawmakers complicates the path for passing the short-term measure and raises the possibility of a partial government shutdown. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes in order for the plan to pass, and several absences from GOP lawmakers, coupled with the public opposition from the far-right flank, indicate he has little room for error.

McCarthy told reporters Monday that the continuing resolution was devised “bottom up” but acknowledged that reaching agreement on a plan to fund the government for a full year will be a “challenge.”

“I’ve never seen anybody win a government shutdown,” he said. “You only put the power in the hands of the administration. If you want to secure the border, pass Homeland. If you want to make America strong and secure, you pass the [Pentagon appropriations] bill. If you’re not willing to pass appropriations bills and you’re not willing to pass a continuing resolution to allow you to pass the rest of the appropriations bill, and you don’t want an omnibus, I don’t quite know what you want.”

But even if the plan passes the GOP-led House, where it’s unlikely to garner any Democratic support, in part over the border wall provision, the measure faces steep odds to clear the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, and 60 votes are needed for legislation to pass. It’s also unlikely to earn President Biden’s signature.

Still, the House Rules Committee is set to convene Monday to discuss the legislation and the parameters for its consideration on the floor, which would set up a procedural vote in the coming days. That vote will be a key test for McCarthy and whether he can unite the GOP conference behind the bill.

Ellis Kim contributed to this report

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