Congress under pressure to avert shutdown with deadline just days away

Congress under pressure to avert shutdown with deadline just days away
Congress under pressure to avert shutdown with deadline just days away

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are scrambling to avert a partial shutdown ahead of a federal government funding deadline at the end of the week.

After months of averting shutdowns at the eleventh hour with stopgap bills, Congress finally passed a package of six bills in early March to fund a slate of government agencies for the rest of the fiscal year – but the work isn’t over yet.

A number of key government operations still need to be funded by the end of the day on Friday, March 22, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and the legislative branch.

The Department of Homeland Security has proven to be a particularly thorny issue in the funding fight amid partisan disagreements over border policy.

The current fiscal year began more than five months ago on October 1, 2023. Since then, lawmakers have faced a series of fiscal cliffs as a result of funding deadlines created by short-term extensions. Now, Congress may be on the verge of finally completing the annual appropriations process.

There are potential landmines ahead, however. In the Senate, lawmakers will need to reach a time agreement to pass the legislation before Friday’s shutdown deadline. The objection of any one senator could slow the process down and threaten to take lawmakers right up to, or past, the deadline.

In the House, Speaker Mike Johnson must navigate an extremely narrow majority and pushback from his right flank. Hardline conservatives have expressed anger over Johnson’s handling of the government spending fight – and the speaker needed to rely on both Republican and Democratic votes to pass the six-bill funding package earlier this month.

That package, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden, included 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.

Johnson was elected speaker last year after conservatives forced former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership post, raising questions over whether Johnson could face a similar threat to his speakership amid backlash from the far-right wing of his conference.

McCarthy’s historic and unprecedented ouster plunged House Republicans into a weeks-long period of intense turmoil as they struggled to elect a successor, and many Republicans do not want to see that scenario play out a second time. — CNN

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