US House aims to pass spending bill to avert weekend government shutdown

US House aims to pass spending bill to avert weekend government shutdown
US House aims to pass spending bill to avert weekend government shutdown

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Failure by the House and Democratic-majority Senate to pass and send to President Joe Biden this package of six spending bills would trigger federal worker furloughs and suspend some agency operations beginning on Saturday, when stop-gap funding expires. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, March 6 — The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Wednesday will try to pass legislation funding a broad swath of the federal government through the fiscal year that began in October, as yet another threat of a partial shutdown looms.

Failure by the House and Democratic-majority Senate to pass and send to President Joe Biden this package of six spending bills would trigger federal worker furloughs and suspend some agency operations beginning on Saturday, when stop-gap funding expires.

This 1,050-page cluster of bills would keep programs running at huge federal bureaucracies, including the departments of Agriculture, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Also affected are construction projects at military bases and care for veterans.

House Speaker Mike Johnson is operating with a paper-thin 219-213 majority in the Republican-controlled chamber and likely will rely on Democratic votes to win passage in order to send the legislation to the Senate, which would aim to act tomorrow or Friday.

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The far-right House Freedom Caucus late on Tuesday urged fellow Republicans to oppose the bill, saying in a statement that it will “bust” spending caps enacted last June and “punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority.”

Many of its members rarely vote for spending bills.

The group wants significantly deeper spending cuts—amid national debt nearing US$34.5 trillion—that would be unlikely to clear the Senate or win Biden’s signature.

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Congress is over five months late in accomplishing its most basic task of passing full-year government funding measures. Passage of these six bills would open the way for lawmakers to move on to the remaining six bills by a March 22 deadline.

Hefty government agencies including the Defence Department, Homeland Security, State Department and Health and Human Services are prominent pieces of the second package.

Taken together, the two batches of bills would spend US$1.66 trillion for fiscal 2024, down from the US$1.7 trillion in discretionary spending the previous year.

Among agencies that would suffer spending cuts are the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. — Reuters

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