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Congress faces crunch time on government funding

Congress faces an increasingly tight time crunch to get a sprawling government funding deal across the finish line before a looming shutdown deadline on Friday — and lawmakers are already concerned the process could drag into the weekend.

Lawmakers are expecting legislative text to roll out as soon as late Wednesday, but some warn it could be later as staff work to assemble the annual Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill.

“We’re hoping late tonight, but it could go into the early hours of Thursday,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that crafts the DHS funding bill, told The Hill on Wednesday afternoon.

The bill is one of six that will be included in a sprawling government funding package lawmakers are expected to vote on in the coming days to avert a government shutdown.

The full-year funding package, which could clock in at more than $1 trillion in spending for fiscal year 2024, would include funding for DHS; the departments of Defense, State, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; and financial services, foreign operations and general government.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Wednesday that lawmakers are looking at ways to speed up consideration, as Republicans clash over whether the chamber should waive its rule allowing members at least three days to consider some legislation going through regular order before voting on it.

However, Johnson also said on early Wednesday that he doesn’t think a stopgap measure, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), will be necessary to stave off a funding lapse.

While the funding package has yet to be made public, both sides have already started claiming early wins in the spending fight. Republicans have touted funding cuts in areas like foreign operations and diversity, and Democrats have boasted investments in childcare and domestic programs, while fending off GOP-backed so-called “poison pill” riders.

House members on both sides are pushing for a vote as soon as Friday. But it’s still unclear how soon the Senate will be able to move the legislation, particularly as some conservatives have said they intend to hold up passage in protest of the deal.

“We might have a two- or three-day shutdown,” Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), an appropriator, said on Wednesday, but he also downplayed the effect it would have on government operations. Others have also doubted a shutdown would happen at all, even if there is a small funding gap.

Congress passed its first six annual funding bills as part of a package earlier this month, funding the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Commerce and Energy.

At the time, lawmakers were also staring down a Friday deadline to pass the measure. But the Senate didn’t approve the package until hours before the deadline due to last minute drama, and the president didn’t end up signing the bill until Saturday.

However, after the Senate passage, the Office of Management and Budget ceased shutdown preparations and said agencies would continue to operate as normal.

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