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House sends $1.2T funding deal to Senate ahead of midnight shutdown cliff

The House approved a $1.2 trillion funding package on Friday, sending the colossal measure off to the Senate with just hours to spare before federal cash expires for most of the government after midnight.

Speaker Mike Johnson leaned heavily on Democratic votes to pass the package in a 286-134 vote, his usual practice with spending legislation ever since he assumed the gavel five months ago. Just 101 Republicans supported the measure, falling short of a majority of the GOP conference. The vote was held less than 36 hours after more than 1,000 pages of bill text was released in the middle of the night, a fact that infuriated conservatives.

Once the Senate clears the bill, Congress will have finally closed out a particularly chaotic government funding cycle dominated by House Republican infighting.

“Remember, last Congress we were all complaining: ‘We can’t even read these thousands of pages before we have to vote on them.’ We’re now back to the House of hypocrites, and I’m so sick and tired of it,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

To try to avert a partial shutdown, Johnson defied many of the funding conditions House conservatives forced upon former Speaker Kevin McCarthy — resulting in Greene filing a motion to boot him from the speakership during the vote on Friday.

Instead of threatening Democrats with the specter of across-the-board cuts, Johnson embraced bipartisan negotiations and reinforced a deal on spending totals McCarthy struck with President Joe Biden last summer. The new speaker also agreed to pass the 12 funding bills in two large packages, rather than individually.

“Why throw out a speaker for supposedly breaking the rules, and now we have a new speaker that is really breaking all the rules. So like, what changed?” Greene said this week, before filing the so-called motion to vacate. “All the precious rules are being broken.”

Before the spending vote, some House lawmakers predicted it would fail because Republicans were protesting of a slew of earmarks that Senate Democrats secured.

A number of lawmakers were also dismayed by the lack of a controversial pay increase in the funding package, which members of Congress haven’t received since 2009, as it has been continually blocked from spending bills every year.

Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, who is running for the job of top Republican on the Appropriations Committee next year, led opposition to about a dozen earmarks that would direct funding to efforts Senate Democrats requested for programs in their home states. Republicans had opposed those earmarks in negotiations, but did not successfully extract them in final talks with Democrats.

“I think it’s only fair that when you have a topic like — dealing with immigration, dealing with abortion, dealing with LGBTQ — that if it’s going to cause a problem for the bill to go down, just pull it,” said Aderholt, who is chair of the appropriations panel that handles the funding bill for federal health, labor and education programs. “Pull those issues.”

The Alabama Republican said many GOP lawmakers object to federal funding going to organizations that provide condoms, needle exchange, services to immigrants or support specifically for LGBTQ+ people. “For some Republicans, including myself, that’s very difficult to explain how you spend taxpayer dollars for that,” Aderholt said.

Because of the bipartisan budget caps Biden and Johnson reinforced in January, overall non-defense funding under the package is about even with current levels, while defense programs are set to receive about a 3 percent increase.

Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democratic appropriator in the House, said her party did “very, very well” given the limited amount of money lawmakers had to work with.

“Level funding was a victory in this piece of legislation,” she said.

There’s still no guarantee Congress will thwart a brief partial shutdown at midnight, with the Senate now under pressure to reach an agreement that would speed up votes on the legislation before federal cash lapses. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security would be affected, along with federal education, labor and health programs. Funding would also expire for the IRS and congressional operations, as well as the departments of Treasury and State.

Even if Senate objections delay final passage for a few days, a funding lapse for the Pentagon and the non-defense agencies covered under the bill is expected to be less disruptive to federal services than a shutdown that begins during the workweek or during a partisan stalemate.

“I probably shouldn’t say this. But if we shut down, like, Friday night, nothing gets affected,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), chair of the appropriations panel that handles funding for the State Department. “If there’s a shutdown for a weekend, that becomes a technicality, more than a real problem.”

Biden could also direct agencies to carry on with as much of their duties as possible without funding coming in. Although commissary stores on U.S. military bases are sometimes slated to close during a funding lapse, the Defense Commissary Agency confirmed Friday that those stores will remain open over the weekend regardless of a partial government shutdown and can operate for up to 60 days on cash reserves.

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report. 

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