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US Lawmakers Vote On Stopgap Bill To Avert Govt Shutdown

The Republican-led House of Representatives will vote Thursday afternoon on a short-term "continuing resolution" extending the first deadline until March 8 and making March 22 the cut-off for the remaining six bills.


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FILES: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in West Columbia, South Carolina, on January 28, 2024. Kent Nishimura / AFP)

 

US lawmakers were set to vote Thursday on a stopgap measure to avert a damaging election-year government shutdown, with funding due to expire for several key federal agencies if they do not act by the weekend.

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress still has not approved the 12 annual spending bills that make up the federal budget, and is facing deadlines of midnight on Friday night and March 8 to keep the lights on.

Money for agriculture, science, veterans’ programs, transport and housing is due to run out first, potentially hitting food safety inspections, air traffic controllers’ pay and a number of other important functions.

A full shutdown would come a week later — and a day after President Joe Biden’s March 7 State of the Union address — leaving defense, border security, Congress and many other departments and agencies unable to operate.

The Republican-led House of Representatives will vote Thursday afternoon on a short-term “continuing resolution” extending the first deadline until March 8 and making March 22 the cut-off for the remaining six bills.

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to approve the measure — which keeps the government open at current spending levels — before the end of the day.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has been struggling to corral a razor-thin majority, walking tightrope between the demands of his own right flank and more moderate Republicans.

– ‘Working Together’ –

While the moderates consider shutdowns politically disastrous, and a threat to Republican chances of hanging onto the House and retaking the Senate in November, right-wingers in safe seats are more inclined to spoil for a fight.

Conservatives have been pushing for a reduction in Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s salary to zero, a block on travel costs for armed forces personnel seeking abortions and defunding parts of Biden’s climate agenda — all red lines for Democrats.

Biden cut a deal with Republicans last year mandating tens of billions of dollars in automatic cuts if lawmakers fail to pass full-year spending bills by April.

The hard-right, 40-member House Freedom Caucus, angered by entreaties from the leadership to accept compromise on its priorities, has made no secret of the fact that it would be happy for that ax to fall.

“We can’t let the swamp dictate the terms,” Texas congressman Chip Roy posted on X.

Biden called a rare Oval Office meeting for congressional leaders on Tuesday to jolt them into striking a deal on the budget, and to unblock vital aid for Ukraine that is also stalled by infighting among Republicans.

“If our House Republican colleagues of good will want to do the right thing, they must accept a fundamental truth about divided government: Republicans cannot pass a bill without Democratic support,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“It takes both sides working together — and ignoring the extremes of the hard-right — to get anything done.”

AFP