Partisan Leaders Rush to Strike Government Spending Deal

( – Fears of a government shutdown are at the forefront once again as lawmakers scramble to pass multiple spending bills before March 1 and March 8. Republicans vowed to pass appropriations bills for each government agency to avoid overspending and increase transparency, but the task has proven impossible with Democrats opposing certain provisions that some Republicans have demanded.

The House Freedom Caucus provided a nearly identical list of demands as it did the last time there was a threat of a shutdown. Twenty-eight members of the caucus sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on February 21 asking for a status update on negotiations.

Speaker Johnson has said that avoiding a shutdown was a top priority, but his position could be at risk if he chooses to work with the Democrats to get the bills passed instead of standing firm with his GOP colleagues. One demand from the House Freedom Caucus is to force the Pentagon to stop funding travel for service members to obtain abortions. Another is to cut Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s salary to $0. Connecticut Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro said that the proposed riders “are non-negotiable. They’re off the table.” She added that if Republicans would give up on the riders, the bills would be able to pass.

Democrats have demanded that shortfalls for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program be included. They have vowed to refuse to move forward unless the program receives the funding it needs. On the flip side, the Republicans making demands would rather pass another continuing resolution than concede to the Democrats. Doing so would force a one-percent overall cut in spending, thanks to a provision included in the debt ceiling bill of 2023. Republicans negotiated the mechanism to attempt to push lawmakers to follow through with passing the various appropriations bills instead of kicking the can down the road with continuing resolutions.

Leaders in the House and Senate had hoped to make a deal by February 25 but were not successful. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blamed the Republicans for not taking the matter seriously. Speaker Johnson denied Schumer’s accusation, stating that the continued debates were the result of “new Democrat demands” in the Senate.

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