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Lawmakers reach short-term deal to avoid devastating government shutdown

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers have agreed on a short-term spending deal to avert a partial government shutdown, which would kick the can down the road to fund the government once again as Congress struggles to reach a consensus on a longer-term agreement.

The extension – referred to as a continuing resolution – will fund parts of the government through March 8 and the remainder until March 22, congressional leaders announced in a joint statement on Wednesday. It's a bid to buy lawmakers more time to come up with a full-fledged funding agreement for the nation's government.

The short-term measure is paired with a deal on six of the 12 spending bills lawmakers need to pass to fund the government's work. The goal is to pass those six bills in the next week, by March 8, and then hash out a long-term agreement for the rest of government's functions by the new March 22 deadline.

The House could vote on the legislation as soon as Thursday. The deal is expected to garner support from most, if not all of House Democrats. However, it will almost certainly receive blowback from ultraconservative Republicans, who have attacked the last three short-term extensions Congress has already passed.

The bill is also expected to easily clear the Senate, where Democratic and Republican leaders have been united in averting a partial government shutdown.

"We continue to make very good progress on an agreement, and we are very close to getting it done," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor on Wednesday morning prior to the deal's release.

President Joe Biden convened the top four congressional leaders to the White House earlier this week to discuss government funding, along with foreign aid to key U.S. allies such as Ukraine. The four party leaders, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left the meeting optimistic Congress could avoid a shutdown.

The path forward to long-term government funding is still unclear. This continuing resolution will be Congress’ fourth extension since the original deadline of Sept. 30 last year, highlighting the brinkmanship among the nation's leaders.

Parts of government funding are slated to expire on March 1 with the remainder set to lapse on March 8.

A government shutdown means all officials and federal agencies that aren't deemed “essential” have to stop their work and close their doors. When the government does shut down, thousands of federal employees are furloughed.

"Essential" federal workers, which range from air traffic controllers to emergency personnel in national parks, work without pay, but they receive back pay once a shutdown ends. Some subcontractors for the government could be out of work and would not receive back pay.

A shutdown can also have significant effects on Americans who don't work for the federal government. For example, some food assistance benefits can be delayed, and certain food safety inspections can be put on pause.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., talks with reporters outside the West Wing after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.
House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., talks with reporters outside the West Wing after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress unveils short-term deal to avert partial government shutdown