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Gov’t to stay open after Senate approves funding bill in early morning vote

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced late Friday the Senate had reached an agreement on a $1.2 trillion spending measure avoiding a partial government shutdown. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

1 of 2 | Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced late Friday the Senate had reached an agreement on a $1.2 trillion spending measure avoiding a partial government shutdown. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) — The Senate early Saturday passed a $1.2 trillion government funding bill, avoiding a scenario in which several federally funded agencies were set to shut down after midnight.

The measure covers about 70 percent of discretionary government spending and completes the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process nearly six months after its scheduled conclusion.

After fending off several amendments, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced an agreement had been reached and the Senate voted 74-24 to approve the measure, hours after the House passed it earlier in the day by a 286-134 margin.

The funding bill now goes to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has indicated he will sign it. The 1,000-page legislation contains six separate funding bills that needed to pass by the looming Friday-night deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown.

“We have just reached an agreement to complete the job of funding the government tonight,” Schumer wrote on the social media platform X. “It wasn’t easy, but tonight our persistence has been worth it. It is good for the American people that we have reached this bipartisan deal.”

The majority leader praised the effort for containing “significant investments for parents and kids and small businesses and health care workers and military families and so much more.

“Our efforts have paid off with a strong funding bill that now goes to President Biden’s desk,” he said.

If the bill had been amended in the Senate, it would would have needed to go back to the House for approval, but with the House adjourned for two weeks, such a measure would have guaranteed a government shutdown.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was hopeful the Senate would pass the funding measure without killer amendments.

“This is about — this is not about this President,” she said. “It’s not about the White House. It’s about the American people. We’ve always said that. This is about programs that American families need.”

The House began debate on the spending bill at 9 a.m. EDT Friday before voting at 11 a.m., with 101 Republicans joining 184 Democrats to send the legislation to the Senate.

Given the time crunch, the vote was held under suspension of rules, ditching a requirement to first pass a rule that would face Republican opposition but placing a requirement of two-thirds support for the measure to pass.

The legislation passed despite strong criticism from some House conservatives over its spending needs. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., filed a motion Friday to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson after his successful bipartisan efforts to advance the budget plan.

The most conservative members of the House complained about Johnson leaning on Democrats to get the funding legislation passed. The majority of House Republicans, 134, voted against the package while 101 voted for it.

Republican conservatives and House progressives had pushed back over a one-year hold in funding for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees over the alleged involvement of some of its workers in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“On any bipartisan agreement you have some Democrats and some Republicans that drop off,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said prior to the vote.

The package will keep the doors open to three-fourths of the government, including the departments of Education, Homeland Security, Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and State.

“I’m delighted and relieved to be finally closing out fiscal year 2024,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. and the highest-ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said on the floor.

The package would give a boost to funding border protections that had long been supported by Republicans. Democrats were able to score a $1 billion increase in childcare and Head Start funding.

“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,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said on Thursday ahead of the vote.

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