Congress unveils first six budget bills as government shutdown clock ticks down

Lawmakers in Congress on Sunday released details of the first six budget bills needed to keep government agencies funded before money runs out and a partial government shutdown takes effect this coming weekend.

The 1,050 pages The appropriations package has funding for six key areas of government that include the military and veterans affairs departments, agriculture, commerce, energy and water, transportation, housing and others.

Funding for those departments was set to expire last Friday, March 1, but congressional leaders reached a deal Wednesday to extend those deadlines by a week and avert a partial government shutdown. It was the fourth such funding expansion this fiscal year as Congress struggled to come up with a long-term budget plan.

This partial budget agreement is a step forward in the effort to secure a permanent budget plan for the remainder of the fiscal year, which began on October 1.

But these six funding bills are only half the battle.

The other six appropriations bills that keep the rest of the government funded are set to expire on March 22, giving Capitol Hill just two weeks to negotiate the other half of the administration’s spending plan.

Still, leaders on both sides of the aisle tout the first half of the funding package as a victory, albeit for different reasons.

Democrats are trumpeting continued full funding of a special food assistance program for women, infants and children. They also secured victories for rent assistance and payments for infrastructure workers such as air traffic controllers and rail inspectors.

“During the negotiations, Democrats fought hard to protect against cuts to housing and nutrition programs and to block harmful provisions that would further limit access to women’s health care or reverse the progress we’ve made on fighting climate change ” said the Senate Majority Leader. Chuck SchumerDN.Y., said in a statement on Sunday.

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Meanwhile, Republicans are trumpeting victories for veterans’ gun ownership and funding cuts to government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“House Republicans secured major conservative policy victories, rejected left-leaning proposals and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to President Biden’s agenda,” the House speaker said. Mike JohnsonR-La., said in a statement Sunday.

The funding package now heads to the House floor for a vote, where it will likely face opposition from the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of Republican hardliners who have been relentlessly opposed to budget compromises over the past fiscal year.

“Time is now running until the government funding runs out this Friday. Between now and the end of the week, the House must move quickly and send this bipartisan package to the Senate,” Schumer said Sunday. “Once again, only bipartisanship will get us to the finish line.”

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