Johnson Floats Short-Term Spending Bill to Avert Partial Shutdown

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Speaker Mike Johnson is floating another short-term stopgap spending bill to head off a partial government shutdown at the end of the week, offering a temporary path out of a stalemate that has repeatedly threatened federal funding over the past six months.

His proposal would extend funding for some government agencies for a week, through March 8, and the rest for another two weeks, until March 22. It would be contingent on congressional leaders finalizing an emerging bipartisan agreement on six of the 12 annual spending bills.

And it would leave time for top lawmakers to negotiate the other six measures, and then try to pass the spending bills individually before the next set of deadlines to fund the government. That would be a tall order in the House, which has struggled to pass spending legislation amid Republican divisions.

Any stopgap bill “would be part of a larger agreement to finish a number of appropriations bills, ensuring adequate time for drafting text and for members to review prior to casting votes,” said Athina Lawson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Johnson.

Congressional leaders hoped to finalize the plan as early as Wednesday, leaving time for quick votes in both chambers before the midnight deadline on Friday. The details were reported earlier by Punchbowl News.

“We continue to make very good progress on an agreement, and we are very close to getting it done,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Wednesday morning. He added later, “I’m hopeful that the four leaders can reach this agreement very soon so we can not only avoid a shutdown on Friday, but get closer to finishing the appropriations process altogether.”

The proposal offers glimmers of hope for staving off a shutdown in the immediate term, but would only punt resolution of a spending stalemate that has gripped Congress for months, as Republicans bent on steep cuts and conservative policy mandates refuse to accept a deal with Democrats. It comes after a meeting at the White House on Tuesday in which President Biden and congressional leaders from both parties escalated pressure on Mr. Johnson to accept a spending deal. Top Democrats and Republicans emerged saying they were optimistic about keeping the government funded.

“We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown,” Mr. Johnson said after the meeting, which was followed by a brief one-on-one talk between him and Mr. Biden.

The spending showdown that has brought the government to the brink of a partial shutdown this week has been fueled by congressional Republicans, who, after failing in their efforts to slash federal funding, have fought to tie it to a number of right-wing policy dictates.

The proposal floated by Mr. Johnson suggests that appropriators believe they are close to resolving some of the policy disagreements they had been litigating in recent days. Mr. Johnson told Republicans over the weekend during a conference call that they should not expect the inclusion of many of their major policy priorities, but that he expected to secure a number of smaller victories.

Among the measures that Republicans have sought are one that would restrict access to abortion medication and another to restrict the Department of Veterans Affairs from flagging veterans deemed mentally incompetent in a federal background check needed to buy a gun. They also have tried to block an effort by Democrats to increase funding for nutrition programs for low-income women and children.



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