Senate passes first government funding package, setting up clash with House GOP

Senate passes first government funding package, setting up clash with House GOP

The Senate on Wednesday passed its first batch of government funding measures for fiscal 2024, teeing up a clash with House Republicans as the party presses for steeper spending cuts and a host of partisan riders.

Senators voted 82-15 to pass the package — which covers full-year funding for the departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Transportation (DOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the Food and Drug Administration, among other agencies.

“We just passed a strong, bipartisan spending package — the only bipartisan spending bills in Congress, by the way — and we did it with an 82-15 vote,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said after the vote. “So let’s be crystal clear about what that means. Unlike the funding measures we’ve seen pushed through the House, these are serious and reasonable, bipartisan bills that can actually be signed into law. They are the product of months of hard work, careful negotiation, thoughtful input from members on both sides of the aisle.”

Senators had initially hoped to pass the package in September, but those efforts hit a roadblock amid opposition from conservatives and as lawmakers worked to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.

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The package combines three of the dozen annual funding bills senators hope to pass in the weeks ahead.

The largest bill, which covers funding for military construction and the VA, offers more than $120 billion for VA medical care for the coming fiscal year. Appropriators have also lauded its historic boosts to military construction and family housing projects.

The package also sets aside nearly $100 billion in funding for the DOT, HUD and related agencies, with some increases for the Federal Aviation Administration, Maritime Administration, homeless assistance grants and Section 8 vouchers.

The bills are seen by some negotiators to be among the easier ones to pass, and they secured unanimous approval in committee.

However, they contain major differences from their counterparts in the House, where Republicans have taken a harder line on reducing spending for nondefense programs and proposed a slew of measures Democrats have deemed “poison pills” — including provisions to limit abortion access, enforcement of the Biden administration’s equity and diversity orders and more.

Under an extension approved in September, Congress has until Nov. 17 to pass legislation keeping the government funded or risk the first government shutdown in years. However, lawmakers in both chambers have already acknowledged a stopgap measure will likely be needed.

Updated at 5:54 p.m.

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