House passes key government funding bills as lawmakers rush to beat shutdown deadline

The House voted on Wednesday to pass a package of six government funding bills as lawmakers race the clock to get the legislation through both chambers before an end of the week shutdown deadline.

The Senate must next take up the measure as lawmakers face a pair of upcoming shutdown deadlines on Friday and March 22. President Joe Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening, further compressing the timeframe to enact the package.

The finalized package of spending bills – backed by the top Democrats and Republicans in both chambers – represents a major breakthrough for lawmakers. After months of averting shutdowns at the eleventh hour with stopgap bills, Congress is now finally on the verge of passing updated legislation to fund critical government departments and agencies.

House Republicans, who have an extremely narrow majority, passed the package on a bipartisan basis. The vote was 339 to 85, with 132 Republicans voting in favor and 83 Republicans opposed. Two Democrats voted in opposition.

Democrats and Republicans have both claimed wins in the spending package, which includes funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction and other federal programs.

The package will support a wide array of programs and initiatives, including hiring new air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors; medical care and benefits for veterans; and science, technology and research programs aimed at bolstering US economic competitiveness and competition with China in fields such as artificial intelligence.

Democrats have highlighted that the package funds key social safety net programs, including providing $7 billion for the WIC program, which delivers nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, a $1 billion increase from the prior fiscal year. The package also includes funding for rental assistance and other child nutrition programs, including the school lunch program.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement on the package, “I am particularly proud that it fully funds the vital WIC program, makes critical investments in our infrastructure, and strengthens programs that benefit services for our veterans.”

“Throughout the negotiations, Democrats fought hard to protect against cuts to housing and nutrition programs, and keep out harmful provisions that would further restrict access to women’s health, or roll back the progress we’ve made to fight climate change,” Schumer said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has faced criticism from his right flank over his handling of the government spending fight, said in a statement, “House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to the President Biden’s agenda.”

The Louisiana Republican went on to say, “This legislation forbids the Department of Justice from targeting parents exercising their right to free speech before school boards, while it blocks the Biden Administration from stripping Second Amendment rights from veterans. It imposes deep cuts to the EPA, ATF and FBI, which under the Biden Administration have threatened our freedoms and our economy, while it fully funds veterans’ health care.”

The hardline House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position against the spending package, saying in a statement that it “punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority” and “surrenders Republicans’ leverage to force radical Democrats to the table to truly secure the southern border.”

Johnson won the speaker’s gavel after conservatives ousted former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a historic vote last year, raising the prospect that the Louisiana Republican may at some point face a similar threat against his speakership.

But McCarthy’s ouster threw House Republicans into a protracted period of uncertainty and infighting as they searched for a new leader, an episode that many GOP lawmakers do not want to see unfold a second time.

Schumer has said that he plans to bring the package to the Senate floor as soon as possible, though It’s not yet clear exactly when the chamber will vote.

“As soon as the House sends the appropriations bills over to the Senate. I will put these bills on the floor, so we can have them on President Biden’s desk before Friday’s deadline,” he said on Tuesday.

Schumer noted that Biden’s State of the Union address will take up significant time on Thursday, making the time crunch even tighter.

“But the clock is ticking, and because of the State of the Union on Thursday we need to cooperate to move extra fast to get these bills through between now and Friday,” he said. “The watchwords for the Senate will be cooperation and speed.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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