US House Approves Plan to Avert Partial Government Shutdown – On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a plan with a 336-95 vote to prevent a partial government shutdown on Saturday. This measure, however, defers heated discussions on spending priorities until early 2024, as the current funding for government agencies is set to expire at midnight on Friday.
This necessitates a short-term deal between Congress and the White House to maintain government operations. Under the leadership of new Speaker Mike Johnson, the House endorsed a proposal that, led by the slim Republican majority, prolongs funding for certain government agencies until mid-January and others until early February.
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By these dates, Congress will need to engage in discussions and make decisions on government-wide spending levels, either for the duration until next September or to approve yet another short-term arrangement. When Johnson’s plan was approved, he garnered more votes from Democrats (209) than Republicans (127), while 93 Republicans and two Democrats opposed it.
The Senate is expected to endorse the proposal, sending it to President Joe Biden for approval. Johnson has faced criticism from a right-wing faction within his Republican colleagues due to his budget plan’s omission of desired spending cuts or policy changes. Faced with opposition from some staunch conservatives, he sought Democratic votes to ensure the plan’s passage.
In late September, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy faced backlash from the right-wing bloc for securing Democratic votes to pass a seven-week spending plan, leading to his removal from the speakership. Unlike McCarthy, Speaker Johnson, a staunch conservative himself, currently seems to have the support of like-minded colleagues in negotiating a deal to prevent a government shutdown.
Johnson’s strategy involves “laddered” funding expiration dates in early 2024 to avoid the tradition of passing massive spending measures just before the holidays. His plan maintains spending levels at those of the fiscal year ending September 30, rejecting demands for spending cuts from the hard-right Republican faction.
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Additionally, divisive cultural issues favored by some conservatives and billions in new financial assistance sought by Biden for Ukraine and Israel were excluded. The ongoing dispute could lead to a government shutdown if broad new funding isn’t secured by midnight Friday. This uncertainty has prompted credit rating agencies to downgrade the government’s credit rating, potentially increasing borrowing costs for the U.S., whose national debt is nearing $34 trillion.