House Tees Up Vote to Keep Money Flowing to Several Key Federal Agencies

March 6, 2024by Kevin Freking, Associated Press
House Tees Up Vote to Keep Money Flowing to Several Key Federal Agencies
President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is expected to vote to keep money flowing to scores of federal agencies before a midnight Friday shutdown deadline even as many members of the Republican conference are expected to vote against it.

The first package of six bills expected to be voted on Wednesday has a price tag of about $460 billion. Lawmakers are still negotiating a second package of six bills, including defense, in an effort to have all agencies fully funded before a March 22 deadline. In the end, total discretionary spending set by Congress is expected to come in at about $1.66 trillion.

A significant number of House Republicans oppose the measure, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to use an expedited process to bring the bill up for a vote. That process requires two-thirds of the House to vote for the measure for it to pass.

The nondefense spending in this year’s bills is relatively flat compared to the previous year. Supporters say that keeping that spending below the rate of inflation is tantamount to a cut, forcing agencies to be more frugal and focus manpower on top priorities. Johnson touted a 10% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 7% cut to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a 6% cut to the FBI.

But many Republican lawmakers were seeking much steeper cuts and more policy wins. The House Freedom Caucus, which contains dozens of the GOP’s most conservative members, urged Republicans to vote against the first spending package to be voted on Wednesday and oppose the second one still being negotiated.

“Despite giving Democrats higher spending levels, the omnibus text released so far punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority,” the group said.

Johnson countered that House Republicans have just a two-vote majority in the House while Democrats control the Senate and White House.

“We have to be realistic about what we’re able to achieve,” Johnson said.

Democrats staved off most of the policy riders that House Republicans sought to include in the package. For example, they beat back an effort to block new rules that expand access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Democrats also said the bill would fully fund a nutrition program for low-income women, infants and children, providing about $7 billion for what is known as the WIC program. That’s a $1 billion increase from the previous year.

As part of those negotiations, House Republicans pushed to give a few states the ability to disallow the purchase of nonnutritious food, such as sugary drinks and snacks, in the food stamp program known as SNAP. The GOP’s effort was unsuccessful for now, but supporters say they’ll try again in next year’s spending bills.

“The bill certainly doesn’t have everything that we may have wanted, but I am very proud to say we successfully defeated the vast majority of the extreme cuts and hundreds of harmful policy riders proposed by the House Republicans,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans were able to achieve some policy wins, however. One provision, for example, will prevent the sale of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China. Another policy mandate prohibits the Justice Department from investigating parents who exercise free speech at local school board meetings.

Another provision strengthens gun rights for certain veterans. Under current law, the VA must send a beneficiary’s name to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System whenever a fiduciary is appointed to help manage someone’s benefits. This year’s spending package prohibits the VA from transmitting that information unless a relevant judicial authority rules that the beneficiary is a danger to himself or herself, or others.

A gun violence prevention group formed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded in a mass shooting, said the change would make it easier for those at an elevated risk of suicide to access a gun.

“Republicans duck the issue of gun violence and instead blame mental illness, then fight to allow individuals with diminished mental capacity unfettered access to guns,” said Vanessa N. Gonzalez, a vice president at Giffords.

In a closed-door meeting with the House GOP, Johnson, looking to show that Republicans did get some policy wins in the negotiations, read from a news report about how Democrats were having “heartburn” about the gun provision, according to a Republican familiar with the discussion who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The bills to fund federal agencies are more than five months past due with the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1. House Republicans are describing an improved process nevertheless, saying they’ve broken the cycle of passing all the spending bills in one massive package that lawmakers have little time to study before being asked to vote on it or risk a government shutdown.

“We broke the omnibus fever,” Johnson said.

But critics of the bill, such as Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., were dismissive about how much the process really changed, calling the spending packages “an omnibus cut in two parts.”

The package voted on this week covers the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Interior and Transportation, among others.

Once the package clears the House, it will then go to the Senate with supporters looking to have a vote before Friday’s midnight deadline.

____

Associated Press congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Congress

April 11, 2024
by Tom Ramstack
Journalists Tell Congress Federal Law Needed to Protect Confidential Sources

WASHINGTON — Former CBS television investigative reporter Catherine Herridge told a congressional panel Thursday about how reprisals she endured for... Read More

WASHINGTON — Former CBS television investigative reporter Catherine Herridge told a congressional panel Thursday about how reprisals she endured for her reports demonstrate a need for a federal law to protect journalists’ news gathering. Herridge refused a court order in February to reveal her sources for... Read More

April 11, 2024
by Dan McCue
Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Block NIH Funding of Animal Experiments

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill introduced in the House on Thursday would amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit... Read More

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill introduced in the House on Thursday would amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit federal funding for medical research that involves experiments on dogs and cats. If passed and signed into law, the Preventing Animal Abuse and Waste Act would... Read More

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Address Congress Amid Skepticism About US Role Abroad

WASHINGTON (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an address to U.S. lawmakers meant... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an address to U.S. lawmakers meant to underscore the importance of keeping a strong partnership between the two countries at a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific and skepticism in Congress about... Read More

April 10, 2024
by Tom Ramstack
Congress Seeks to Limit Intellectual Property Derived From Artificial Intelligence

WASHINGTON — A House panel on Wednesday tried to get its hands around the slippery issue of when inventions or... Read More

WASHINGTON — A House panel on Wednesday tried to get its hands around the slippery issue of when inventions or artistic works developed with artificial intelligence should receive intellectual property rights. Intellectual property normally refers to patents for inventions or copyrights for literary, musical or artistic... Read More

Justice Department Blasts GOP Effort to Hold Attorney General Garland in Contempt Over Biden Audio

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday blasted Republicans' effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over his refusal... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday blasted Republicans' effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over his refusal to turn over unredacted materials related to the special counsel probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press,... Read More

April 9, 2024
by Tom Ramstack
Lawmakers Move Forward on Data Privacy Bill

WASHINGTON — The heads of the House and Senate Commerce committees reached an agreement on a data privacy bill this... Read More

WASHINGTON — The heads of the House and Senate Commerce committees reached an agreement on a data privacy bill this week that would override state laws limiting what information corporations can gather on private individuals. It also would give consumers a right to delete their private... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top