Congress Passes Budget, Averts Government Shutdown

Five months too late, we're back to the Biden-McCarthy deal.

While the attention is rightly on Marjorie Taylor Green’s motion to vacate the Speakership of Mike Johnson, it obscures the fact that Johnson’s crime—like that of Kevin McCarthy before him—was cooperating with Democrats to get a budget passed, keeping the government open. Indeed, as a technical matter, funding expired at midnight but, with a Senate vote looming, President Biden ordered OMB to cease shutdown procedures.

AP (“Senate passes $1.2 trillion funding package in early morning vote, ending threat of partial shutdown“):

The Senate passed a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills in the early morning hours Saturday, a long overdue action nearly six months into the budget year that will push any threats of a government shutdown to the fall. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

The vote was 74-24. It came after funding had expired for the agencies at midnight, but the White House sent out a notice shortly after the deadline announcing the Office of Management and Budget had ceased shutdown preparations because there was a high degree of confidence that Congress would pass the legislation and the president would sign it on Saturday.

“Because obligations of federal funds are incurred and tracked on a daily basis, agencies will not shut down and may continue their normal operations,” the White House statement said.

Prospects for a short-term government shutdown had appeared to grow Friday evening after Republicans and Democrats battled over proposed amendments to the bill. Any successful amendments to the bill would have sent the legislation back to the House, which had already left town for a two-week recess.

But shortly before midnight Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a breakthrough.

“It’s been a very long and difficult day, but we have just reached an agreement to complete the job of funding the government,” Schumer said. “It is good for the country that we have reached this bipartisan deal. It wasn’t easy, but tonight our persistence has been worth it.”

While Congress has already approved money for Veterans Affairs, Interior, Agriculture and other agencies, the bill approved this week is much larger, providing funding for the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments and other aspects of general government.

The House passed the bill Friday morning by a vote of 286-134, narrowly gaining the two-thirds majority needed for approval. More than 70% of the money would go to defense.

The vote tally in the House reflected anger among Republicans over the content of the package and the speed with which it was brought to a vote. House Speaker Mike Johnson brought the measure to the floor even though a majority of Republicans ended up voting against it. He said afterward that the bill “represents the best achievable outcome in a divided government.”

That Congress finally passing a budget—the current fiscal year started last October 1, after all—is considered an achievement rather than a minimal performance standard is a sad reality. But the combination of arcane rules and a fractured Republican Party makes it the new norm.

The vote breakdown showed 101 Republicans voting for the bill and 112 voting against it. Meanwhile, 185 Democrats voted for the bill and 22 against.

Rep. Kay Granger, the Republican chair of the House Appropriations Committee that helped draft the package, stepped down from that role after the vote. She said she would stay on the committee to provide advice and lead as a teacher for colleagues when needed.

Johnson broke up this fiscal year’s spending bills into two parts as House Republicans revolted against what has become an annual practice of asking them to vote for one massive, complex bill called an omnibus with little time to review it or face a shutdown. Johnson viewed that as a breakthrough, saying the two-part process was “an important step in breaking the omnibus muscle memory.”

Still, the latest package was clearly unpopular with most Republicans, who viewed it as containing too few of their policy priorities and as spending too much.

“The bottom line is that this is a complete and utter surrender,” said Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo.

It took lawmakers six months into the current fiscal year to get near the finish line on government funding, the process slowed by conservatives who pushed for more policy mandates and steeper spending cuts than a Democratic-led Senate or White House would consider. The impasse required several short-term, stopgap spending bills to keep agencies funded.

It’s noteworthy that nearly half of House Republicans voted for the bill, as did a majority of Senate Republicans. At this point, the GOP is effectively two, essentially evenly divided, parties.

Roll Call reports, “Twenty-two Republicans voted against the bill, along with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who protested the lack of Ukraine aid, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who sought funding for Palestinian aid.” One suspects Bennet and Sanders would have been Yes votes if their protests weren’t merely symbolic.

The obvious political reality is that we have divided government, which by definition demands compromise. Most Congressional Democrats and half of Congressional Republicans seem to understand that.

This, too, is worth highlighting:

“We had to work under very difficult topline numbers and fight off literally hundreds of extreme Republican poison pills from the House, not to mention some unthinkable cuts,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., said on the floor ahead of the vote. “But at the end of the day, this is a bill that will keep our country and our families moving forward.”


Murray touted funding for child care, research for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and efforts to combat the opioid crisis included in the bill. She also took aim at House Republicans, who for months resisted the parameters of the deal former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., struck with Biden, eventually ending up with a final result that resembled the original agreement.

“When we do work together, when we put our heads down and focus on solutions, and listen to our constituents, we can find common ground,” Murray said. “But when House Republicans … insisted on partisan poison pills, when they listened to the loudest voices on the far right — who, let’s be real, were never going to vote for any bipartisan funding bill — well, that got us nowhere.”

That’s right, boys and girls: Months of tantrum-throwing and the petulant ouster of the Speaker got the MAGA wing right back to where they would have been last fall. Professional legislators know how to count votes, understanding the limits of what outcomes are possible. Call it the art of the deal.

Amateurs, on the other hand, do this sort of thing:

Still, the legislation faced opposition among some Republicans, critical of the spending levels in the package and wary of its effect on the deficit. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took the floor ahead of the vote to criticize the measure.

“Congress is poised to do what no American family would ever do. Congress is poised to spend a third more dollars than they receive,” Paul said. “Someone’s going to be asked to pay for it. That’s going to be you. Uncle Sam, Uncle Sucker will be asked to pay for it.”

Paul also took aim at the short turnaround between the bill’s release in the early hours Thursday morning to the final passage vote, saying members lacked adequate time to examine the 1,012-page bill and its more than 1,400 earmarks.

He went after projects like $1 million for Martha’s Vineyard hospital — “in one of the richest ZIP codes in the United States,” Paul said — and $2 million for a kelp and shellfish nursery at the University of Maine.

The notion of holding up a $1.2 trillion package over $3 million (cue Dr. Evil voice) is just laughable. And I guarantee that there is at least that much wasteful spending being funneled to Kentucky. Not to mention that this was primarily a Defense bill, and Fort Knox and Fort Kentucky are in the Bluegrass State.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    As someone whose insurance is paid for with federal dollars, I’m glad the House Republicans failed in their attempt to take away my gender affirming care coverage, and I get to keep it for at least one more year…

  2. Kurtz says:

    “Congress is poised to do what no American family would ever do. Congress is poised to spend a third more dollars than they receive,” Paul said.

    Apparently, Rand has no idea that credit cards exist. Or student loans. Nor how they are used by many American families.

    Of course, comparing government spending to family finances is silly.

  3. @Kurtz:

    Of course, comparing government spending to family finances is silly.

    Indeed. I am so very incredibly tired of that trope.

  4. Pete S says:

    If I remember correctly Mr Paul finances his household expenditures by baiting his neighbour into punching him then suing. Certainly not scalable for an entire country.

  5. gVOR10 says:


    Of course, comparing government spending to family finances is silly.

    Not entirely. Many families have a mortgage that’s a multiple of annual income (family GDP). They manage.

    We do need to reduce the deficit and cut into the debt. Keynes told us to do so in good times, and times are good. But the only realistic way to do it is to reverse our decades long trend of cutting taxes, particularly on the wealthy and corporations. And it’s the GOPs, especially little Rand Paul, who will fight tooth and nail to prevent doing so.

  6. gVOR10 says:

    I was curious how FOX treated the government funding story. As of half an hour ago I couldn’t find any trace of it on their website. Apparently it takes time for their internal process to figure out how to make it a bad thing.

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    When I was a Real Estate sales agent only one client said he might pay cash for a house as he had done in the past. He decided to finance with a mortgage since the mortgage interest tax deduction worked to his advantage. This was mid ‘90s. I don’t remember what interest were and I don’t remember how much the down payment was.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Not to mention that if Congress were merely “poised to do” what Paul suggests, the US national debt right now would be about fifteen cents.

  9. Kurtz says:


    Of course, but the existence of some parallels does not a legitimate comparison make.

    But yes, much of the deficit and the resultant debt can be traced to tax policy rather than out of control spending.

    It doesn’t help that many government programs–student loans and the ACA come to mind–are designed in such a way that private interests take enough off the top to reduce the efficacy of the programs.

    That’s not to say that government programs should never be implemented or administered by private companies, but it does seem that they are often designed to legalize what would be considered graft if the program was directly administered by the State.

  10. Gustopher says:

    The House passed the bill Friday morning by a vote of 286-134, narrowly gaining the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

    Why would it require a supermajority in the House? Have we found a new way to make our government function even more poorly?

  11. Stormy Dragon says:


    It was passed under a suspension of the rules rather than “normal order”, which requires a two thirds vote.

  12. gVOR10 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Which is to say it’s an old, traditional way to make our government function even more poorly.

    Also, if I understand it, and I’m never sure I understand congressional rules and procedures, Marjorie Trailer Greene filed her motion to remove Reverend Johnson as Speaker under regular order, meaning it’s up to the Speaker, the subject Rev. Johnson, to put the motion on the floor.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    “Congress is poised to do what no American family would ever do. Congress is poised to spend a third more dollars than they receive,” Paul said.

    And yet somehow the idea of receiving more dollars — even by collecting taxes already owed under current law — is somehow unthinkable.

    You know what no American family would ever do? Deliberately eliminate income so that they would be forced to live at a subsistence level, because that’s somehow morally superior. Until you’re willing to go there, how about we cut the spurious analogies to household finances?

  14. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR10: If only Johnson were motivated entirely by spite. How tempting must it be to try a “no theatrics for you unless you’re willing to live with the consequences”?

    He must really want the job to not just put MTG’s motion on the schedule.

  15. Lounsbury says:

    @Gustopher: He need not really want the job for himself as such, equally he can be a rational actor who sees MTG as a pure risk to the overall Party in terms of power and election results, which certainly another circus as like the one that led him to the Speakership seems rather risky of having just such result with Nov 24 coming fast.