POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Senate averts a partial shutdown in overnight vote to approve government funding package

Mar 23, 2024, 10:48 AM | Updated: 11:31 am

Mike Johnson...

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference with Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Majority Whip Tom Emmer following a closed-door GOP conference meeting at the US Capitol Visitors Center on March 20 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

WASHINGTON, (CNN) — The Senate passed a government funding package early Saturday morning, averting a partial shutdown and ending a lengthy fight that has loomed over both sides of Capitol Hill for months.

The legislation will next be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law, which he’s expected to do Saturday.

The vote marks a major moment on Capitol Hill as it brings to a close an annual appropriations process that has dragged on far longer than is typical – an effort that has been punctuated by partisan policy disagreements and a historic change of leadership in the House after conservatives ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in an unprecedented vote last year.

While final passage came after the midnight deadline, the Senate’s action effectively prevented any lapse in funding or government function, and the federal government is now funded through the end of the fiscal year.

The Senate’s vote comes after the end of a tumultuous day on Capitol Hill, highlighting how narrow the majorities are in both chambers are and how high tensions are running among lawmakers. Immediately after the House voted to pass the legislation the Senate is considering, firebrand Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a motion to oust Johnson from the speakership. While the resolution does not need to be addressed immediately, it represents the most formal and strident challenge to the speaker’s leadership since he took over in late last year. The final House vote was 286-134, with 112 Republicans and 22 Democrats voting against.

Despite the House voting earlier in the day Friday, voting in the Senate was delayed for hours amid negotiations over an agreement to speed passage in the chamber. Republicans had demanded votes on controversial amendments that put some vulnerable Senate Democrats in tough political spots.

The funding bill addresses a slate of critical government operations, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State and the legislative branch.

Lawmakers unveiled the $1.2 trillion government funding package just before 3 a.m. ET on Thursday, and the text is more than 1,000 pages long.

Schumer said Thursday that the text for the legislative package came “in the nick of time,” with fewer than 48 hours out from the deadline for a partial government shutdown. The Democratic leader added, “Now Congress must now race to pass this package before government funding runs out this Friday. Once the House acts, the Senate will need bipartisan cooperation to pass it before Friday’s deadline and avoid a shutdown,” a reference to how any one senator could slow passage of the bill and launch a partial shutdown.

After months of averting shutdowns at the eleventh hour with stopgap bills, Congress finally passed a package of six bills in early March to fund a slate of government agencies for the rest of the fiscal year.

Johnson, who won the gavel after McCarthy’s ouster, faces an extremely narrow majority and pushback from his right flank over his handling of the government funding fight. With the House starting a two-week recess on Friday, Greene’s resolution to oust Johnson will hang over the GOP conference as it considers what to do next in the 118th Congress.

Johnson praised the bill early Thursday morning, outlining conservative wins in the package.

“This FY24 appropriations legislation is a serious commitment to strengthening our national defense by moving the Pentagon toward a focus on its core mission while expanding support for our brave men and women who serve in uniform,” Johnson said in a statement.

House members on both sides of the aisle lashed out Thursday over the agreement, with progressives and far-right members criticizing the legislation for different reasons.

GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told CNN he won’t be supporting any Republican who votes for the bill and that leadership “owns the bill,” describing the bill as a “failure.”

“I would have a very difficult time doing that,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju. “The Republican conference is a failure if they pass this bill.”

House progressives have also been critical with some indicating they will vote against it over provisions that will withhold funding to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees for one year amid the alleged involvement of UNRWA employees in the October 7 attack against Israel.

McCarthy’s fate has raised questions over whether Johnson could face a similar threat to his speakership, but many Republicans have made clear they do not want another speaker’s race after the intense infighting and chaos triggered by McCarthy’s removal.

The separate six-bill funding package, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, included funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction and other federal programs.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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Senate averts a partial shutdown in overnight vote to approve government funding package