Senate passes multi-billion-dollar funding package to avoid government shutdown

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The Senate passed a $460 billion package of spending bills to avert a partial government shutdown ahead of the first funding deadline Friday. 

Lawmakers spent the majority of Friday considering motions related to the slate of bills and debating the package following President Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday night. 

The votes were 75-22 in favor, and the package now goes to Biden for him to sign.

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Bills funding Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the Departments of Justice and Commerce, Energy and Water Development, the Department of Interior, and Transportation and Housing for the remainder of fiscal year 2024 were ultimately approved by senators and will head to President Biden’s desk to be signed. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

However, the upper chamber cleared the midnight shutdown deadline by only a number of hours, with a significant faction of mostly Republicans opposing each step of Senate procedure. 

On the motion to invoke cloture on the bills to limit debate, which requires a 60-vote threshold in the body, the chamber voted 63-35, only narrowly avoiding a potential filibuster. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, noted on the floor that the choice of many Republicans to oppose cloture on the bill was not because they want to see a shutdown, but because they were denied votes on several amendments, particularly those relating to immigration. 

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The Senate also struggled to establish a time agreement to quickly move the package through the chamber.

Rand Paul during Senate HELP Committee hearing

Sen. Rand Paul speaks during the COVID Federal Response Hearing on Capitol Hill on June 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.   (Joe Raedle)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who serves as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered a “warning” to her fellow Republicans ahead of the vote over their hesitance to support the package. “If we do not act at midnight tonight, we will have a partial government shutdown,” she said in floor remarks. “It will affect the Department of Agriculture. It will impair the work of the Food and Drug Administration. It will prevent military construction projects from going forward.”

HOUSE PASSES $460 BILLION GOVERNMENT FUNDING BILL BLASTED BY GOP HARDLINERS

The package was first passed by the House on Wednesday by a vote of 339-85.

Several Republican senators had expressed skepticism prior to the vote, pointing to the number of earmarks included. 

A number of these concerned Republicans joined a resolution to condemn the use of earmarks in budget appropriations. Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., held a press conference on Wednesday, during which they slammed the current process for not allowing debate on various earmarks by individual lawmakers. 

Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup hearing on Thursday, November 30, 2023.  (Bill Clark)

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“The minibus spending bill has more than 6,600 projects that will cost taxpayers $12 billion,” Scott said in a statement. “This clearly isn’t about funding the government, it’s about funding pet projects for politicians like Chuck Schumer.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., revealed on Wednesday his intent to vote against the measure, with a different justification. “Buried in the appropriations bill being voted on this week is a terrible new gun policy rider that significantly rolls back the firearms background check system. You need to know about this – it’s bad enough that I will vote against the entire bill,” he said in a statement. 

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The second funding deadline is March 22, and spending bills are still being negotiated for consideration. Bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon will be included in the second slate of appropriations measures. 

Senator Chris Murphy

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., revealed on Wednesday his intent to vote against the measure. (Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Last month’s week-long stopgap funding measure became the fourth of its kind since the initial appropriations bill deadline to fund the government for the year on Sept. 30.

Part of the justification among House Republicans who ensured the removal of former California Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership was his failure to keep promises, including passing appropriations bills in regular order. However, newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has struggled to get funding bills passed without the use of stopgap measures, especially amid a shrinking Republican majority. 

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