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Congress gives itself another month to work out budget

The House passes its third spending extension in six months

The U.S. Capitol Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Congress gives itself another month to work out budget

Congress has punted a decision on government funding until later in 2024—again.

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted for the third time in six months to give itself more time to agree on a budget for funding the government for the rest of the year. The measure, known as a continuing resolution, passed 314–118, extending the federal government’s current spending levels while pushing a possible government shutdown to early March.

Faced with significant pressure from Democrats, Republicans in the Senate, and a looming deadline, House Speaker Mike Johnson had little choice but to renege on his previous resolve to avoid another short-term spending resolution. Rep. Marcus Molinaro, R-N.Y., when asked if he saw the vote as a win, admitted it was an overly familiar circumstance.

“A win? Listen, we have an obligation to fund the government functioning and provide for our constituents. At the same time, we have to get an agreement on a long-term budget bill,” Molinaro said. “It is a little bit like Groundhog Day. There’s no question; we shouldn’t be doing this over and over, but we are progressing relatively earnestly.”

The resolution will expire in two phases, with some government agencies and offices closing March 1 while others stay open through March 8.

Before Congress passed the resolution on Thursday, some parts of the government were set to shut down on Friday, with more following on Feb. 2. Johnson reached an agreement with Democrats last week on topline spending levels for 12 appropriations bills for the fiscal year, but hammering out the details and passing those bills by Friday would have been nearly impossible.

In the past, Congress has extensively used continuing resolutions to avoid or even replace spending packages. In one such case, Congress approved a continuing resolution in September 2012 that ultimately extended through September 2013 in lieu of appropriations legislation. House conservatives take issue with the use of a continuing resolution now because it extends last year’s pricey spending levels.

Moments before the vote, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, encouraged his colleagues to tank the bill, arguing it didn’t do anything to change the trajectory of the country’s bottom line.

“The House GOP is about to continue AGAIN to fund the federal government at Pelosi Spending levels,” Roy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in reference to former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “All GOP should oppose.”

Roy voted against the resolution with over 100 Republicans, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the GOP conference chairwoman and the fourth-highest-ranking member of Johnson’s leadership.

In the hours leading up to the vote, conservative factions of the House GOP pressured Johnson to include other policy riders in the bill. Some members wanted Johnson to implement border security measures, pro-life measures, and other policies in the bill’s final draft. At one point, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus tried to convince Johnson to attach the entirety of a Republican-led immigration bill to the resolution.

Though the bill eventually passed without those add-ons, some Republicans praised the effort from the Freedom Caucus, arguing that the extra pressure sent the message that immigration remains a priority for the conference.

“My wish is that we would have had an ability to amend that bill,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said as he left the House chamber. “That’s what we should be doing. We should be fighting, doing everything we can to secure our border.”

Late last year, a handful of conservative Republicans joined with Democrats to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after he supported a similar continuing resolution. Speaking in defense of Johnson—and McCarthy—Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said repeating the removal process would not be in the best interest of the GOP.

“We’re getting less conservative outcomes as a result,” McHenry said. “The idea that conservatives got some ‘better win’ out of a new speaker is clearly not the case. You could say we’re also at a political disadvantage as a result of being a month delayed in our negotiations.”

With the continuing resolution out of the way, Republicans will continue to work on the appropriations process. The House of Representatives has a topline spending total to work with, but it must still fill in the specifics of the 12 appropriations bills.

Donalds isn’t as upbeat as he once was about finding a spending agreement that will pass in the House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“The Senate is slow-walking this whole process on purpose,” Donalds said. “We could have done this last year. My optimism is shrinking.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD reporter covering politics in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Patrick Henry College.

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