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House Approves Short-Term Extension to Avoid a Shutdown TIME

House GOP Leadership Holds Post-Meeting Press Conference

(WASHINGTON) — The House passed another short-term spending measure Thursday that would keep one set of federal agencies operating through March 8 and another set through March 22, avoiding a shutdown for parts of the federal government that would otherwise kick in Saturday. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later in the day.

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The short-term extension is the fourth in recent months, and many lawmakers expect it to be the last for the current fiscal year, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who said that negotiators had completed six of the annual spending bills that fund federal agencies and had “almost final agreement on the others.”

“We’ll get the job done,” Johnson said as he exited a closed-door meeting with Republican colleagues.

The vote to approve the measure was 320-99. It easily cleared the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Read More: How a Key White House Player in the Shutdown Fight Gained Republicans’ Trust

At the end of the process, now expected to extend into late March, Congress is set to approve more than $1.6 trillion in spending for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 — roughly in line with the previous fiscal year. That’s the amount that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with the White House last year before eight disgruntled Republican lawmakers joined with Democrats a few months later and voted to oust him from the position.

Some of the House’s most conservative members wanted deeper cuts than that agreement allowed through its spending caps. They also sought an array of policy changes that Democrats opposed. They were hoping the prospect of a shutdown could leverage more concessions.

“Last I checked, the Republicans actually have a majority in the House of Representatives, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at our checkbook because we are all too willing to continue the policy choices of Joe Biden and the spending levels of Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., countered before the vote that shutdowns are damaging and encouraged lawmakers to vote for the short-term extension.

“I want the American people to know Mr. Speaker that this negotiation has been difficult, but to close the government down at a time like this would hurt people who should not be hurt,” Fleischmann said.

The split within the GOP conference and their tiny House majority has bogged down the efforts to get the spending bills passed on a timely basis. With the Senate also struggling to complete work on all 12 appropriations bills, lawmakers have resorted to a series of short-term measures to keep the government funded.

Read More: Mitch McConnell to Step Down as GOP Leader, Ending Historic Tenure

Republican leadership said that the broader funding legislation being teed up for votes in the next few weeks would lead to spending cuts for many nondefense agencies. By dividing the spending bill up into chunks, they are hoping to avoid an omnibus bill — a massive, all-encompassing bill that lawmakers generally had little time to digest or understand before voting on it. Republicans vowed there would be no omnibus this time.

“When you take away Defense and Veterans Affairs, the rest of the agencies are going to be seeing spending cuts in many cases,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La. “There are also some policy changes that we pushed through the House that will be in the final product. Of course, some of those are still being negotiated.”

Once the House votes on this week’s temporary spending measure, the Senate is expected to take it up before sending it to President Biden’s desk before Friday’s midnight deadline.

The temporary extension funds the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Interior and others through March 8. It funds the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the State Department through March 22.

The renewed focus on this year’s spending bills doesn’t include the separate, $95.3 billion aid package that the Senate approved for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan earlier this month, with much of that money being spent in the U.S. to replenish America’s military arsenal.

Biden summoned congressional leaders to the White House on Tuesday, during which he and others urged Johnson to also move forward with the aid package. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the U.S. can’t afford to wait months to provide more military assistance to Ukraine, which is running short of the arms and ammunition necessary to repel Russia’s military invasion.

“We’ve got a lot of priorities before us, but we have to get the government funded and secure our border and then we’ll address everything else,” Johnson told reporters upon exiting his meeting with GOP colleagues.

KEVIN FREKING / AP

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