Congressional Leaders Look To Put Off Shutdown Fight A Little Longer

Just two more weeks.

That’s how long congressional leaders from both parties said Wednesday they’ll need to finally settle disagreements over funding levels for most agencies and programs this year, with almost half the 2024 federal budget year already over with and a government shutdown looming once again.

The so-called Big Four — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) — unveiled a bill to keep federal agencies now scheduled to be shuttered on Saturday open until March 9.

Other agencies, now set to be closed March 9, would see that date pushed back to March 23.

“We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

The bill will have to be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by President Joe Biden before midnight on Friday evening to meet the current shutdown deadline and thus keep agencies like the Energy, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Departments open.

The temporary spending bill, which funds the government at last year’s levels, will be the fourth since the current budget year started Oct. 1. This latest extension is meant to give lawmakers time to flesh out two packages of spending bills, which if passed would fund all the agencies for the remaining seven months of fiscal 2024.

The statement said the two packages of funding bills would stick to topline spending caps agreed to last year in a deal on the debt limit. Republicans balked at those limits in January and won some small tweaks to them in return for avoiding a shutdown then. Those tweaks will also be reflected in the final full-year bills, the leaders said.

But whether those bills will actually be passed by the time the new proposed deadlines hit is unclear.

Some House Republicans, upset over what they say is a lack of policy victories in the annual spending bill fights so far, have threatened to vote against any short-term stopgap, let alone any future full-year bill. That would mean Johnson would have to rely on Democrats to again provide needed votes for both short- and long-term spending bills eventually.

The four party leaders met with President Joe Biden Tuesday at the White House to figure out a strategy to avoid a shutdown and discuss funding for Ukraine, which just marked its third year defending itself against a Russian invasion.

Wednesday’s agreement on a stopgap bill will not solve that latter issue. But it may give House GOP leaders, who have resisted taking up a bipartisan Senate bill to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, time to figure out what they will counter with.