House passes bills to avert a government shutdown; package now heads to the Senate

Mike Johnson
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks about the spending package during a news conference on March 20. The House of Representatives went on to pass six appropriations bills funding the government on Friday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The House of Representatives passed the remaining six appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024 on Friday morning, setting up a tight turnaround for the Senate to vote on the package before a midnight deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The $1.2 trillion package includes Defense, Homeland Security, financial services and general government, Labor-HHS, the legislative branch, and state-foreign operations. It funds the federal government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The bills needed two-thirds support to pass. The final vote was 286-134.

There were warning signs Thursday night that the vote may be tighter than GOP leadership expected.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who chairs the Labor-HHS subcommittee, said he’d be voting against the package because of earmarks senators on both sides of the aisle inserted into the bill.

“This is not the bill that my subcommittee produced and supported. The Senate has taken liberties with their Congressionally Directed Spending requests that would never stand in the House,” he said in a statement.

Republican members also expressed disappointment that the package doesn’t go further on strengthening the Southern border and criticized the narrow timeframe between the 1000+ page text’s release early Thursday morning and the Friday vote.

But Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on defense, urged his colleagues to vote for the package.

“Every member must understand the impact of not passing this package. The only other option will be a full year continuing resolution, which will devastate our national security and put our country at risk,” he said ahead of the vote. “A no vote is a vote for China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Hamas.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, and education, said the package represents a compromise.

“This legislation does not have everything either side may have wanted,” she said. “But I am satisfied that many of the extreme cuts and the policies proposed by House Republicans were rejected.”

She noted her work with other House and Senate Appropriators — Rep. Kay Granger of Texas and Sens. Collins of Maine and Murray of Washington “marks the first time negotiations on government funding have been led on all four corners by women.”

What’s in the package?

The package has wins for both Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans are touting an increase in the number of ICE detention beds and border agents and cutting funding to NGOs. They’re also trumpeting a provision that prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves and another that prevents diplomatic facilities from flying flags that aren’t official U.S. flags.

Democrats are praising a $1 billion increase for childcare and early learning programs, including $12 billion for the Head Start program.

Another provision getting a lot of attention is the measure that halts funding for UNWRA, the United Nations Agency that provides aid to Palestinians, until March of 2025. This comes after Israel alleged that a dozen UNWRA staffers took part in Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.

What this means for Speaker Johnson

Johnson was never going to make everyone in his conference happy, but the tight vote suggests there could be challenges ahead for the speaker.

“This bill, if passes, will likely determine who controls the House of Representatives and this bill will most certainly determine who the next speaker is,” Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., said at a Freedom Caucus press conference Friday morning.

Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good, R-Va., told reporters he blames the speaker for bringing the package to the floor for a vote. He said he didn’t want to talk about personnel issues within GOP leadership, but said “can’t defend the speaker.”

Johnson’s challenge only deepens next month as the House will debate funding for Ukraine, an issue that divides his conference.

Under House rules it only takes one lawmaker to bring up a vote to oust the speaker. Critics of the speaker have not publicly said they plan to push him out, but Johnson presides over a razor thin, one-vote majority with Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck resigning from the House on Friday.

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