US Lawmakers Vote On Stopgap Bill To Avert Government Shutdown

US legislators were scheduled to vote Thursday on a stopgap bill to prevent a disastrous election-year government shutdown, with funding for several critical federal agencies set to expire if they do not act by the weekend.

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress has yet to adopt the 12 yearly spending measures that comprise the federal budget, and it faces deadlines of midnight on Friday and March 8 to keep the lights on.

Money for agriculture, science, veterans’ programs, transportation, and housing is expected to run out first, thereby jeopardizing food safety inspections, air traffic controller pay, and a variety of other critical tasks.

A full shutdown would occur a week later, a day after President Joe Biden’s March 7 State of the Union speech, rendering defense, border security, Congress, and many other departments and agencies inoperable.

The Republican-led House of Representatives will vote Thursday afternoon on a short-term “continuing resolution” that extends the first deadline to March 8 and sets March 22 as the deadline for the remaining six legislation.

The Democratic-led Senate is anticipated to pass the legislation, which keeps the government open at current spending levels, before the end of the day.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has struggled to maintain a razor-thin majority, between the demands of his own extreme wing and more moderate Republicans.

‘Working Together’

While moderates see shutdowns as politically terrible and a threat to Republicans’ hopes of retaining the House and regaining the Senate in November, right-wingers in safe seats are more likely to beg for a battle.

Conservatives have been pressing for a zero-sum salary decrease for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a ban on travel costs for military services personnel seeking abortions, and the defunding of sections of Biden’s climate program, all of which are red lines for Democrats.

Last year, Biden struck a compromise with Republicans that required tens of billions of dollars in automatic cuts if legislators failed to adopt full-year budget legislation by April.

The hard-right, 40-member House Freedom Caucus, enraged by the leadership’s pleas to accept compromise on its principles, has made no secret of its desire for the ax to fall.

“We can’t let the swamp dictate the terms,” Texas congressman Chip Roy posted on X.

Biden scheduled a rare Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday to startle them into reaching a budget agreement and unlock essential money for Ukraine, which is currently blocked due to Republican infighting.

“If our House Republican colleagues of good will want to do the right thing, they must accept a fundamental truth about divided government: Republicans cannot pass a bill without Democratic support,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“It takes both sides working together — and ignoring the extremes of the hard-right — to get anything done.”

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