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Johnson unveils first tranche of spending bills

The House speaker is one step closer to reforming the appropriations process

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La. Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Johnson unveils first tranche of spending bills

House Speaker Mike Johnson has made his second major deal with Democrats to fund the government for the remainder of 2024. To Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., it’s a welcome sight—if a bit overdue.

“This is not about perfection. It’s about moving things in the best direction we can get. The speaker should be commended,” McHenry said.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024, unveiled on Sunday evening, introduces six funding measures that, if passed, would represent a significant step toward fulfilling Johnson’s promise of reviving single-subject spending bills—something Congress hasn’t used in almost 40 years. In recent years, party leaders have negotiated mammoth omnibus spending bills that were thousands of pages long and received little line-by-line scrutiny.

“The House Republican Conference made a commitment to change the trajectory of federal funding and put an end to wasteful spending, especially on initiatives that received billions of dollars outside the normal appropriations process,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “The [bills] achieve what we set out to do: strategically increase defense spending and make targeted cuts to wasteful nondefense programs.”

The package includes six of 12 appropriations bills that set budgets for the remaining seven months of 2024 in these areas: Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration; commerce, justice, and science; energy and water development; the Department of the Interior and environment; military construction and Veterans Affairs; and transportation and urban development.

The package would allot $66.5 billion in funding—$6.3 billion for defense and about $60.1 billion for nondefense spending. The bills also contain some conservative policy priorities. They would implement a performance appraisal system for immigration judges and prohibit the use of Justice Department funding to pay for abortions except when the life of the mother is at risk.

The legislation also includes some minor cuts: It decreases the FBI budget by 6 percent and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives by 7 percent, among other reductions.

“House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to President Biden’s agenda,” Johnson wrote in a letter to his colleagues about the proposal.

I asked Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., one of the Republican negotiators for appropriations, what he thought about the resulting bill.

“Well, I mean the bottom line is we have to get the appropriations done,” he said. “We’re well on our way to do that.”

Members of the House of Representatives return to Washington on Tuesday, giving Johnson just four days to galvanize support for the bills before parts of the government are scheduled to shut down. Then, he still has to get the six other funding bills approved before the final deadline on March 22. Those bills deal with more defense funding, financial services, foreign operations, and other areas of government spending thought to be more contentious than those already negotiated.

Johnson and other Republicans have not detailed where those bills stand.

“To get on with it, I think is the best thing,” McHenry said when asked about Johnson’s efforts. “I think he’s doing what you’re supposed to do: Bank the wins you can get with the power you have. That is the right course of action, and this is real leadership.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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